AOL’s Tim Armstrong Gives Sincere Apologies

Or so says Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times in the first episode of his planned series #ApologyWatch (and yes, we know that others used the hashtag before him).

We like how someone just had to make the “we have too many lawyers in this country” non-joke and the way CNBC’s backing music serves as an Academy Awards-style call to wrap it up, already.

But yes, Lawrence Spiegel and Sorkin made some valid points about balancing the importance of waiting to ensure that there’s meaning behind the apology with the public’s desire for an immediate response in the social media era.

The main point of the article itself is that AOL CEO Tim Armstrong didn’t just make a half-assed “I’m sorry, jeez” statement after lots of people got upset about his decision to call out two employees whose “distressed babies” cost the company millions of dollars while explaining his decision to cut benefits.

In addition to reversing the benefits decision, he also called the women in question to tell them how sorry he was. All those truisms you hear about backing up your apologies with actions apply here, and based on Sorkin’s piece it seems that the offended parties were OK with that (though this Slate post in which one of the mothers explains all of her “distressed” baby’s health problems makes Armstrong’s about-face a little less impressive).

Here’s Sorkin’s most interesting point:

“I think the intent of his comment was something like, ‘Hey, we think we have great benefits and here’s an example: We just spent $2 million last year to help some of our employees in a tough situation.'”


The most relevant questions: why are the extremely personal healthcare histories of two particular employees relevant to Mr. Armstrong in any way? And why does he keep making such comments in public forums?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.