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The rest of the family's job was to humanize the bigoted billionaire. No. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. That insult is unfair, and unproven. I meant of course, the bigoted alleged billionaire.

—Samantha Bee, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
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First, I'm sorry that you have no life and spend all day editing tropes.

Second, this is a subtrope of Sarcasm Mode, when a supposed apology is actually very unapologetic, and instead makes it very clear that either the person being apologized to is the one in the wrong, or that the apologizer prefers Insane Troll Logic to admitting they are wrong. So when Alice is supposed to apologize to Bob, she instead says "I'm sorry you screwed up, Bob."

Why would Alice be apologizing in the first place? Perhaps Bob demands an apology for some tiny or imagined slight, and Alice just can't resist explaining how it's all his fault, instead. Perhaps Alice's boss is a Beleaguered Bureaucrat or a Corrupt Corporate Executive who just wants to get the problem over with, and the easiest way to do that is to order Alice to apologize for something she didn't do. Or perhaps Alice really is in the wrong, but she's enough of a Jerkass to ignore this in favor of putting Bob down.

Note that it's not enough for Alice to say "I'm not sorry." Her apology has to actively shift the blame to Bob. This may cause Alice to say Screw the Money, I Have Rules, to place Honor Before Reason, or lead her to become The Last DJ. Alternatively, this is just one more spat between Alice and Bob and there are no real consequences, other than Bob now being irritated with Alice.

A subtler variation of this trope is for Alice to apologise by saying something like "I'm sorry you got offended, Bob." This is a relative of False Reassurance and an even closer relative of the Stealth Insult, since Bob has to pay attention to the wording to notice that she's putting the blame on him for being offended rather than on herself for causing offense.

If it's an Ordered Apology, the character giving the order may declare that it's not acceptable.

Compare with Flippant Forgiveness.

Examples of Backhanded Apology include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the English dub of 'Seto no Hanayome, Mawari apologizes after cockblocking two guys, saying "I'm sorry you guys thought you had a chance with them."

Fan Works

  • Team Four Star's DBZ Abridged: Vegeta gets one in at the end of the first season, due to Goku's insistence that if Vegeta says he's sorry, he can leave Earth unmolested. The result?
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Vegeta: I'm sorry. Yep. Totally sorry. I just feel terrible. Yes, I'm very, very, "very" sorry...(capsule door shuts) THAT YOU'RE ALL STILL ALIVE! SUCKERS!

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Film

  • In Donnie Darko, when the independent-minded teacher complains to the head about being fired, all he says is "I'm sorry you have failed."
  • Zoolander: Though it's entirely possible that in Derek's case, he was being genuine.
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Derek: I'm sorry that good-looking people like us made you throw up and feel bad about yourself.
...and...
Mugatu: Oh, I'm sorry, did my pin get in the way of your ass? Do me a favor and lose five pounds immediately or get out of my building like now!

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  • Mean Girls has a scene where each girl is supposed to apologize and do a trust fall. One of the Girl Posse members makes this excuse for an apology, which leaves few willing to stand behind her to catch her when she falls:
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Gretchen: I'm sorry that people are so jealous of me... but I can't help it that I'm so popular.

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  • The title character's apology in Patton for slapping a soldier under his charge, which is based off something Patton did in real life.

Literature

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Owlglass: He was sentenced to death for telling the Emperor that he was a blithering idiot who didn't have the brains of a meat pie.
Pismire: Actually, I got sentenced to death for apologising.
Snibril: How can you be sentenced to death for apologising?
Pismire: I said I was sorry, and that, on reflection, he did have the brains of a meat pie.

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  • Plato's Apology (Plato) appears to be one of these, considering that Socrates spends most of his speech lamenting how stupid everybody is. But the definition of "apology" at the time also meant "a reasoned argument in justification of something". So Socrates's "apology" was him explaining to the people of Athens his beliefs and methods.
  • In Kai Lung's story about the discovery of tea, the Emperor is advised to confess his sins in order to bring an end to a drought:
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“No complete record of Ming Wang’s confession now exists, all those who accompanied him having entered into a deep compact to preserve a stubborn silence. It is admitted, however, that it was of inordinate length, very explicit in its details, and that it implicated practically every courtier and official of any standing. In a final access of self-reproach the Emperor penitently admitted that he was the guilty head of a thoroughly decayed and criminal autocracy, that he weakly surrounded himself with greedy and incompetent officials, and that he had thoughtlessly permitted sycophancy, bribery and peculation to abound.”

—pp. 39-40 of Ernest Bramah, Kai Lung unrolls his Mat (1928; repr. Penguin, 1937).
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Live-Action TV

  • House is forced to apologize to Cuddy's mother: "I'm sorry...that we saved your life", he starts, and then steers it back to a straight apology: "...in the way that we did". Wilson gives the apology a B+.
  • Bewitched: Maurice and Endora are not known to fully admit they're in the wrong.
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Maurice: I apologize that your abominable behavior had so exhausted my patience that I was goaded into a slight transgression.

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  • The Closer: Assistant Chief Pope has received numerous complaints about friction between Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson and other legal departments, and so has ordered her to apologize to the offended parties.
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Brenda: I'd like to start with you, Ms. Powell. I'd like to say how sorry I am that I was unable to ignore your general level of incompetence in the wrongly obtained conviction in the case of Bill Croelick. And I'm sorry if you felt hurt and defensive about putting a man on death row for the wrong crime, and I certainly hope that that will never, ever happen again. Agent Jackson, I deeply regret that the FBI handed over two million dollars to a man on a terrorist watch list without the capacity to trace it, or managed to follow him for months without knowing his wife was having an affair with a doctor, and I hope you do much better in the future. Captain Taylor, I suppose I should apologize to you for not having been born in Los Angeles, but having seen you work up close now for several months, I can honestly say that try as I might, I can't think of any fair and reasonable system on earth where I wouldn't outrank you. There. I hope that clears everything up.

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    • Pope himself delivers a nice one in season 4 to a man accused of killing his wife due to past domestic abuse:
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Chief Pope: On behalf of the entire LAPD, allow me to say how sorry I am that you lied to us so much and that you knocked your wife around to such an extent that we considered you a suspect in her murder.

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  • On Babylon 5, Sheridan's apology to the Centauri firmly cemented him as an awesome replacement to Sinclair. It's just a pity he never got to carry it out to them.
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Sheridan: I apologize. I'm... sorry. I'm sorry we had to defend ourselves against an unwarranted attack. I'm sorry that your crew was stupid enough to fire on a station filled with a quarter million civilians, including your own people. And I'm sorry I waited as long as I did before I blew them all straight to hell! ...'As with everything else, it's the thought that counts.'

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  • From Merlin, Merlin ends up calling the the country's esteemed Prince, a "Royal ass". Bewildered at being insulted by a commoner, the Prince charges at Merlin announcing:
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Prince: I warn you, I've been trained to kill since birth.
Merlin: Wow, and how long have you been training to be a 'prat'?
Prince: (Having had enough) You can't address me like that.
Merlin: Sorry... How long have you been training to be a 'prat'...My Lord?

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  • From Scrubs, after Carla tried to interfere in Perry and Jordan's relationship, Turk persuades her to apologise to Jordan:
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Carla: I didn't mean to upset you. Even though everything I said was true, and you know it.
Turk: Baby, that is a God-awful apology. Just God-awful.
Jordan: Yeah, that's 'cause she's not really sorry.

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  • The Colbert Report: Stephen likes to invert this by proclaiming "I accept your apology" to someone who has not, in fact, apologized in any way.
  • Sex and the City: Carrie apologizes to Big's trophy-wife for having an affair with Big, to which she reples "I'm sorry too: I'm sorry you cheated with my husband, ran around behind my back, and caused me to fall and break my tooth, requiring 27 stitches and hours of painful surgery."
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
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WE WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGIZE FOR THE WAY IN WHICH POLITICIANS ARE REPRESENTED IN THIS PROGRAMME. IT WAS NEVER OUR INTENTION TO IMPLY THAT POLITICIANS ARE WEAK-KNEED, POLITICAL TIME-SERVERS WHO ARE CONCERNED MORE WITH THEIR PERSONAL VENDETTAS AND PRIVATE POWER STRUGGLES THAN THE PROBLEMS OF GOVERNMENT, NOR TO SUGGEST AT ANY POINT THAT THEY SACRIFICE THEIR CREDIBILITY BY DENYING FREE DEBATE ON VITAL MATTERS IN THE MISTAKEN IMPRESSION THAT PARTY UNITY COMES BEFORE THE WELL-BEING OF THE PEOPLE THEY SUPPOSEDLY REPRESENT NOR TO IMPLY AT ANY STAGE THAT THEY ARE SQUABBLING LITTLE TOADIES WITHOUT AN OUNCE OF CONCERN FOR THE VITAL SOCIAL PROBLEMS OF TODAY. NOR INDEED DO WE INTEND THAT VIEWERS SHOULD CONSIDER THEM AS CRABBY ULCEROUS LITTLE SELF-SEEKING VERMIN WITH FURRY LEGS AND AN EXCESSIVE ADDICTION TO ALCOHOL AND CERTAIN EXPLICIT SEXUAL PRACTICES WHICH SOME PEOPLE MIGHT FIND OFFENSIVE.

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  • In one episode of Wonders of the Solar System, Brian Cox made an offhand remark that "astrology is a load of rubbish". After the show received complaints, he made a statement which sadly was not chosen as the BBC's official response on the issue:
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"I apologise to the astrology community for not making myself clear. I should have said that this new age drivel is undermining the very fabric of our civilisation."

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  • The "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld spawned one of these. Apparently, Jerry Seinfeld and several writers went to the restaurant of the man (Al Yeganeh) that the character had been based on. He recognized them and launched into a rant about how the episode had "ruined his life" and demanded an apology. Seinfeld stood up and gave, to quote, "the most sarcastic, insincere apology" he'd ever heard. Yeganeh then yelled "No soup for you!" and threw them out of the restaurant.
  • In Frasier, Niles bears some animosity towards Frasier's ex-wife Lilith after she sn****red during Maris' wedding vows. When Frasier tries to get the two to reconcile, Lilith responds along the lines of "If Niles is so insecure that he needs an apology for something so minor, then fine, I apologise." Niles joyfully accepts.

Music

  • In the Christine Lavin's song "Regretting what I Said" includes "And I'm sorry for all the nasty things I said about your mother, even though we both know they're true".

Newspaper Comics

  • After a reader with the surname Dork complained about a Dilbert strip using "Dork" as an insult, Scott Adams printed a reply in which Dogbert apologised "To all the Dorks who were offended".
  • Non Sequitur: Danae loves this concept.
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Danae: Sorry if you mistook something I said as somehow being offensive. Now everyone should stop dwelling on the past and just get over it.

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Professional Wrestling

  • This is a stock part of Trash Talk in professional wrestling, with Heath Slater's "apology" to Chris Jericho being one of the more recent ones.

Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

  • Some guy just has been finally convicted. A reporter asks him what he thinks the reason is. The convict snarls: "Because half of the jury are assholes, that's why!" The judge interferes: "You will take this back immediately, or I'll take measures!" The convict: "OK, I take it back. Half of the jury ain't assholes!"
    • A similar one with headlines: "HALF OUR NATION'S POLITICIANS ARE CROOKS". Outraged phone calls and Strongly Worded Letters ensue. The next day, the paper prints this correction as a headline: "HALF OUR NATION'S POLITICIANS ARE NOT CROOKS".
  • "Bobby, you apologize to your brother this instant!" "I'm sorry you're an idiot, Tommy."

Video Games

  • In Super Paper Mario, after Luvbi trash-talks the Mario brothers, Jaydes (her mother) forces her to apologize. So she replies. "I am sorry... that thy noses are so large." (The last part said very quickly and apparently unnoticed by Jaydes, though Mario reacts.)

Web Comics

Western Animation

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Riley:Mrs. Dubois, I'm sorry your cobbler look like throw-up with peas in it.

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  • Family Guy: Mel Gibson's "apology" to the Jews, and also:
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Peter: Hey, hey, hey. Easy, fella. That's my kid. Now apologize.
Douchebag:[1] Okay. I'm sorry your kid's a brain-dead stinking blue cheese, fatass.

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  • Squirt and Shimmer do this to each other in "Stumped" on Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends after having a fight over a hollyberry. Holley demands that they stop fighting and apologize to each other. "Sorry your ugly scarecrow won't have a head," shouts Squirt and Shimmer retorts "And I'm sorry that you're the world's worst berry thief!" Later, the two apologize to each other for real after they cool off and realize the pettiness of their earlier behavior.

Real Life

  • During a televised awards show, reasonably popular stand-up comedian and breakfast radio host Dave Hughes refers to 'shock-jock' Kyle Sandilands as a "massive dickhead". Everyone laughs. Except Kyle Sandilands, who proceeds to underscore the statement by proclaiming on his show the following day: "I don't care if I go to jail for three months, that guy needs a punch in the throat. Simple." Hughes responded with a press release. In its entirety:
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"Mr Dave Hughes has issued a public apology to Mr Kyle Sandilands, who has made comments in the past days in reference to remarks made by Mr Hughes at the 2007 TV Week Logie Awards. Mr Hughes said : 'I am sincerely and deeply sorry that Kyle Sandilands is a massive dickhead.' Mr Hughes hopes that this sincere and unreserved apology will put this ugliness to rest and stop Mr Sandilands from going to jail. Mr Hughes further remarked: 'No one deserves to go to jail just for being a massive dickhead. Massive dickheads have the same rights as normal people.' Mr Hughes is not available for further comment on this matter."

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  • On Fandom Wank, this is known as a Heidipology.
  • There is a rule in the British Parliament that forbids personal insults. Benjamin Disraeli said "Half the Cabinet[2] are asses.", He was ordered to apologize and he said "Mr. Speaker, I withdraw that remark, half the Cabinet are NOT asses." in a tone of voice that implied that the other half are asses.
  • Dave Barry once wrote a column about telemarketers which included the phone number of a major telemarketing company. Over the course of the following week, that company got swamped with so many calls from people complaining about being harassed by telemarketers that they couldn't get any work done. Dave Barry's next column covered this reaction, and ended with a highly sarcastic apology to the telemarketing company for the trouble he caused them, which included the phrase "I probably should not say that your new phone number is..."
  • Following a tweet by Chris Brown, Andy Levy made a comment about domestic abuse. Here is his apology to said comment.
  • Orson Welles's apology for the War of the Worlds broadcast essentially amounted to, "I'm sorry, I just didn't know so many people were stupid."
  • First rule of PR: Don't apologize for making a mistake, hurting someone's feelings, offending a social group. Instead apologize, but accuse them taking your words out of context and being offended on purpose/being sensitive. Too many examples to list. "Sorry If This Thing Offended You" is not an apology in most circles.
    • Late 2011 presented an archetypal example from Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing who, in the course of publicly abusing some customers, did not believe that one of the people he was talking to ran Penny Arcade. Hilarity ensued. The series of non-apologies was summarized as "Sorry, I wouldn't have done that if I had known I couldn't get away with it."
  • When Keith Olbermann was removed from Current in March 2012, he released a statement on Twitter which began with this:
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I'd like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.

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  1. who looks like a guy but is really a stupendously ugly fat chick
  2. Committee of high-ranking government ministers
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