If you’re looking for advice on how to raise teenagers properly, Elizabeth Lauten would be an interesting choice. She certainly seemed forthcoming this past holiday weekend when she bashed Sasha and Malia Obama on Facebook.
If you want advice on how to properly apologize for a mistake, Lauten, communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), may not be your best choice.
Lauten was incensed at the teenagers’ dress and perceived lack of decorum during the completely ridiculous annual turkey pardoning ceremony:
— HuffPost UK (@HuffPostUK) December 1, 2014
So Lauten did what few in a high-profile communications position do—she decided to tell her Facebook followers:
Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.
I don’t think I need to point out everything that’s wrong with a communications director for a congressman sharing these thoughts on her non-private Facebook account.
Public criticism quickly turned away from the Obama teenagers and laser-focused on Lauten, who told NBC News she would be resigning Monday.
If I’ve learned anything about collective Internet outrage, it’s that it comes fast and full of vitriol.
Elizabeth Lauten resigns from her job, so she has more time to pursue her first love: taunting children on the internet.
— Chip Chantry (@ChipChantry) December 1, 2014
Lauten made her Facebook page private and posted the following apology:
I wanted to take a moment and apologize for a post I made on Facebook earlier today judging Sasha and Malia Obama at the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony:
When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager. After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart. Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and I pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience.
Many took to social media to say that Lauten had “failed miserably” in her attempt at an apology. It falls short, they said, of actually showing empathy.
According to Forbes contributor Elisa Doucette, Lauten’s apology “is what people who have been caught say. It carries this hard-to-shake implication that you are not REALLY sorry you did it, you are instead sorry that people are outraged by it.”
Doucette gives the following advice when apologizing for a social media faux pas:
Treat the people you are apologizing to as if they are actual people, not pixels on a page. Say I’m sorry directly to them, acknowledge it was poor behavior, and promise to be better next time.
What do you think, Ragan readers: Did Lauten’s apology fall short? Is the Internet outrage warranted?
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