Yesterday, apparently somebody finally informed J.K. Rowling that her wildly popular public criticism of Donald Trump was actually based on a falsehood. Over the weekend, Rowling had issued a series of mega-viral tweets in which she lambasted the president for refusing to shake a disabled boy’s hand at a White House event, calling Trump’s behavior “stunning” and “horrible.” Surprise: Rowling was 100 percent wrong. Trump had actually spent a long moment engaging with the boy in a friendly manner.
It is not too much to assume, in the age of instant communication and 24/7 social media, that Rowling might have taken fewer than three days to fix her flatly untrue and vicious slander of Trump, but better late than never, I suppose. Nevertheless, her mea culpa on the matter falls somewhat short of an actual admittance of guilt, in a way that should be rather embarrassing, at least for anyone who stopped to think before writing it.
As Rowling declared in a series of tweets: “Re: my tweets about the small boy in a wheelchair whose proferred [sic] hand the president appeared to ignore in press footage, multiple sources have informed me that that was not a full or accurate representation of their interaction. I very clearly projected my own sensitives around the issue of disabled people being overlooked or ignored onto the images I saw and if that caused any distress to that boy or his family, I apologize unreservedly…”
It is actually rather nice that Rowling considered how the little boy and his family might have been affected by her factually challenged Internet tirade. But it is also frankly bizarre that this should qualify as any real kind of apology. Rowling did not, after all, publicly defame the boy in the wheelchair; she publicly defamed Trump! It is he to whom any apology should ultimately be directed. If Rowling is sincerely convinced that the situation merits an expression of regret, why not direct it at the man whom she wronged?
Rowling is not, of course, required to apologize, to Trump or to anyone else. But her inability to do so—even unto the point that she will go out of her way to apologize to people to whom she did nothing wrong, all to eschew saying “sorry” to the president—is striking. This is avoidant behavior of a strange and baffling variety: a public figure who (a) knows she did something wrong, but who (b) despises the man to whom she did it, and so (c) must invent an additional wrong out of whole cloth in order to avoid extending an apology to her actual victim.
Yesterday I wrote that many liberals today “cannot engage with the president except in the most unhinged and antirational fashion.” This is true, as Rowling has illustrated not once but twice over the past four days. Any liberal who has bought into the post-election political motif of hysterical progressivism—the idea of a “resistance” against what the Left see as Trump’s crypto-fascist budding totalitarianism—will surely feel compelled to never apologize to the man they see as global enemy No. 1.
Just the same, is it wrong to expect a little honesty from a highly visible and influential public figure? It would have been more satisfying if Rowling had said, “I spread a nasty and hateful untruth about the president. But I loathe him, so I’m not interested in apologizing to him. And that’s that.”
Such an admission would be puerile and pathetic, of course, but it would also be bracing and, in a queer and inexplicable sort of way, refreshing—in other words, a lot like Trump himself.