No Cheney Apology Due: Whittington Already Did It

VIDEO: University of Texas Healths Dr. Tom Cole says nursing a grudge is bad for you.
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In Dick Cheney's book, love -- or friendship, for that matter -- means never having to say you're sorry. Harry Whittington is still waiting for an apology after being shot by the 69-year-old former vice-president on a duck-hunting trip in 2006.

Whittington, an 82-year-old Texas lawyer, took 30 rounds of metal birdshot and landed in intensive care, where he had a mild heart attack and collapsed lung.

"Don't you remember his friend apologized for being in the way," said comedian Harry Shearer, who is the voice of multiple characters on television's "The Simpsons," and podcasts "Apology of the Weak" on NPR's "Le Show."

"A guy apologizes for being shot in the face? I think Dick is off the hook for that," he said. "There's only one apology per incident."

"It's one of the top five apologies of all time: 'Please do it again," said Shearer. "Hurt me some more, Dick.'"

Cheney's faux pas bucks the rising trend of public apologies.

Since 2007, traffic to websites like I'mSorry.com and PerfectApology.com has increased 66 percent -- 172 percent for the over-55 crowd like Cheney, according to AARP magazine.

"Everybody's sorry about something," says ThePublicApology.com. "Cheating on your significant other? Letting your dog poop on your neighbor's lawn? Cheating on your Algebra final?...You know you'll feel better after you get it off your chest."

In fact, one study shows that an apology -- no matter whether it's heartfelt or insincere -- is almost always accepted.

In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the "wronged" don't distinguish between forced or spontaneous apologies.

Study author Jane L. Risen, now an associate professor of psychology at University of Chicago, calls it "insincerity blindness" that likely helps save a person's self-esteem.

Risen got the idea of the study after teaching 5th graders. "I was coercing students to apologize to each other and I was frequently surprised how successful it seemed to be."

Three dynamics are at play, according to Risen. It feels good, other people respond favorably to you and it's a "script we learn early on, to say, 'I'm sorry.'"

Outsiders Can Smell a Fake Apology a Mile Away

Why are friends more judgmental than those who are wronged?

"A victim often feels good to be magnanimous to forgive somebody," she said. "But if you are an observer and you see an insincere apology and accept it, you actually may be signaling that you are not being empathic enough to the victim."

Outsiders, rather than the "targets" of apologies, however, can smell a fake apology a mile away, according to the study.

"It's often easier for you to forgive someone who has hurt you than a someone who has hurt a friend," said Risen.

"For a long time apologies were considered problematic because you have to admit responsibility and liability," she said. "Doctors and hospitals were coached by lawyers, 'Don't apologize.' But recently, we've seen how much good an apology can do."

Here are some stellar public apologies of late. You be the judge if they are sincere.

David Arquette: "I am sorry and humbled" for "sharing too much" with radio host Howard Stern about the lack of sex with his wife of 11 years, Courteney Cox, and having sex with actress Jasmine Waltz.

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