Sorry: The most memorable apologies of 2011

From political foot-in-mouth syndrome to erring sports commentators via torrid tirades and media moguls brought low, it's been a bumper year for apologies. John Walsh selects the most memorable mea culpas

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Indy Politics

On reflection, mistakes were made. Emotions were running high. If somebody chose to take offence, they might have been given the wrong impression. 2011 was a year of apologies: some of them humble, some of them mealy mouthed, most of them only mildly sincere.

Liam Fox was dreadfully apologetic about the "impression of wrongdoing", but naturally failed to acknowledge that any wrong had, in fact, been done. Andy Gray was jolly embarrassed that his comments caused offence, but couldn't be blamed for them being broadcast, because they were really only meant as banter for the benefit of the lads in the studio. Hilary Swank "deeply regretted" attending a birthday party for the torture-loving Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, presumably because it endangered all her endorsement deals – but should she really be responsible for researching the human-rights records of every person whose party she attends? Sorry, it seems, is still the hardest word.

Politics

"I should have taken much greater care to ensure that any meetings with Adam Werritty, at which defence and security- related issues were raised, were properly attended by officials... I have apologised to the Prime Minister and agreed with my Permanent Secretary to put in place new procedures to ensure that this does not happen again."

Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox says sorry for letting his friend and best man inside the corridors of power.

"I have always believed that all rape is extremely serious and must be treated as such. I am sorry if my comments gave you any other impression or upset you."

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke apologises to a tearful rape victim on a BBC Radio 5 Live programme for suggesting that some rapes are more serious than others.

"I was walking around dictating responses, and simply wanted to make sure the pieces of paper were not weighing me down. I have to apologise to constituents who have written to me because, on reflection, I shouldn't have disposed of them in that way."

The documents, that is, not the constituents. The gaffe-prone Cabinet Secretary Oliver Letwin is sorry for having been caught dumping sensitive Government papers in park bins.

"The staff responsible accept that this was an entirely inappropriate way to handle such paperwork and that this was a serious error. Both I and my constituency team are dedicated to meeting the highest standards for the people of Twickenham. I am very sorry that in this instance they were not met."

Letwin's Coalition colleague Vince Cable apologises after confidential documents were discovered in bins outside his constituency office.

"What I would say to those people is, I am extremely sorry because we wanted to do everything we can to help them leave. It is a very difficult picture in Libya. This is not an easy situation."

David Cameron apologises for Government failings that left British citizens stranded in Libya during the anti-Gaddafi protests.

Sport

"I am very sorry that certain comments made by me have caused offence. Such comments were made off-air to work colleagues, and were of course never intended to be broadcast. I was very upset when the comments were brought to my attention... I was suspended from the show by Sky Sports and have now been sacked. Football is my life and I am devastated by losing the job that I love."

Andy Gray, the former Sky Sports commentator and pundit, after the backlash against his sexist remarks to colleagues, which were leaked over the internet.

"I absolutely accept my share of responsibility for what happened in Queens- town and that I drank too much that night. It unfortunately created a level of media interest which was an unwanted distraction for myself, my teammates, Martin Johnson and his staff. I can again only apologise unreservedly for this."

England rugby player Mike Tindall apologises for his attendance at the infamous night at Queenstown's Altitude nightclub, which featured "dwarf throwing" – among other delights.

"Unfortunately we've been totally outplayed again. There is no doubt we've let ourselves down in the way that we've played."

Shane Watson, Australia's opening batsman, after England won the fifth Test of the 2010-11 Ashes to win the series 3-1.

"The worst moment was dealing with my mum. She wasn't at all happy and she didn't even know the whole story at first. I've let down my family, I've let down Martin Johnson and I've let down the people of England."

England rugby player Manu Tuilagi, who was fined £3,000 and warned by Auckland police after jumping off a ferry as it pulled into the harbour.

"Hey guys. I wanted to apologise 4 last weekends performance & also my comments after, I never meant to offend no1... 2 Massa & Maldonado, with the greatest respect I apologise if I offended u. Both of u r fantastic drivers who I regard highly."

Lewis Hamilton tweets apologies to officials for a misjudged Ali G impression and for calling fellow drivers Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado "fricking ridiculous" .

"I want to apologise for any offence that may have been caused by my goal celebration, especially to any parents or children that were watching. Emotions were running high and on reflection my heat-of-the-moment reaction was inappropriate. It was not aimed at anyone in particular."

Wayne Rooney, who, after scoring for Manchester United against West Ham, turned to the Sky Sports camera and then bellowed: "What? Fucking what?"

"The newspapers got the story wrong about me and the fire at my house. I didn't set any fireworks off, it was a friend of mine. I didn't know anything about it until I heard the shouting coming from the bathroom. Luckily, nobody was injured, and my friend apologised to me for the damage to my house. It was a really stupid thing for him to do."

Manchester City's enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli recounts a friend's apology for setting fireworks off in his bathroom.

"Tony Cascarino made his comments in the heat of the moment. An immediate apology on behalf of Tony and Sky Sports was made on air as soon as possible for any offence caused."

A statement from Sky Sports after pundit Tony Cascarino described Arsenal's leftback Armand Traore of "having a Holocaust" in the Gunners' 8-2 defeat at Manchester United.

"I unreservedly apologise for any offence caused. This was never my intention and I deeply regret the use of the word."

Alan Hansen says sorry for referring to "coloured players" in a Match of the Day discussion about racism in football.

Showbusiness

"I deeply regret attending this event. If I had a full understanding of what this event was apparently intended to be, I would never have gone"

Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank apologises for taking part in the birthday celebrations of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader accused of torturing and murdering his own people.

"So sorry for my comment on xtra factor I really am. Enjoyed every moment up on that stage #happybunny... I'm sorry for being honest and being myself."

The X Factor popinjay Frankie Cocozza attempts a apology for saying on The Xtra Factor that he'd "banged" Geordie Shore actress Holly Hagan, 18.

"If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologise. I am not anti-semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi."

Statement from the Danish director Lars Von Trier, after scandalising Cannes Film Festival by saying, "I understand Hitler". He later retracted his apology in GQ magazine, saying: "I can't be sorry for what I said – it's against my nature... but that's maybe where I'm really sick in my mind. You can't be sorry about something that's fundamentally you. Maybe I'm a freak in that sense."

Sex

"I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment... there are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused."

Arnold Schwarzenegger, after news of an affair was revealed.

"I don't know what I was thinking. I am here to fully accept responsibility"

US Democratic Representative and presidential hopeful Anthony Weiner, after admitting exchanging sexually explicit messages with several women.

Journalism

"This is the most humble day of my life"

Rupert Murdoch, before answering MPs' questions into the phone-hacking scandal. Possibly meant "humbling".

"We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals afflicted. We regret not acting faster"

An extract from the full-page News International advert in national papers, after the extent of the phone-hacking scandal was revealed.

"I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt, and I reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know"

Rebekah Brooks, resigning from her position as chief executive of News International in July.

"Am I embarrassed by it? Yes. Am I uneasy about it? Yes. But at the time, there was a crisis in my marriage and I believed there was a young child involved. I also had my own family to think about, and I believed this story was nobody else's business"

Andrew Marr, after revealing he used a superinjunction to prevent news of his affair breaking out.

"The original headline question that appears online was, in hindsight, too stark and could have been clearer. We apologise for any offence it caused"

BBC apology after the broadcast of an edition of World Have Your Say on the World Service with the subtitle Is There a Problem with Young Black Men?

"We stated in an article on 26 September that Christmas has been renamed in various places as Winterval. Winterval was the collective name for a season of public events, both religious and secular, which took place in Birmingham in 1997 and 1998. We are happy to make it clear that Winterval did not rename or replace Christmas"

The Daily Mail, in its new Clarifications & Corrections column, admits that Winterval has been a myth repeated by its columnists for 10 years.

"Having carefully scrutinised all of the relevant evidence, the committee concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, it was more likely than not that the Bangalore footage was not authentic... The Trust would like to apologise on behalf of the BBC to Primark and to the audience at home for this rare lapse in quality"

A BBC Trust statement after a report into a Panorama programme found it "more likely than not" that it contained fake footage of child labour.

"An article about the investigation into the abduction and death of Milly Dowler stated that voicemail messages were deleted by [NOTW] journalists in the first few days after Milly's disappearance in order to free up space for more messages. As a result friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive. Since this story was published, new evidence – as reported in The Guardian of 10 December – has led the Metropolitan Police to believe that this was unlikely to have been correct and that while the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler's phone, the newspaper is unlikely to have been responsible for the deletion of a set of voicemails from the phone that caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive, according to a Metropolitan Police statement made to the Leveson Inquiry on 12 December"

Entry in The Guardian's Corrections and Clarifications section, December 2011, tiptoes carefully around saying: "Our splash story which led to the closure of the News of the World was wrong."

Fashion

"We weren't intending to make light of a serious situation"

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole apologises for trying to use the Arab Spring as a publicity tool on Twitter by tweeting: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo".

"Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour in causing any offence"

British designer John Galliano, fired from Christian Dior after video footage was posted on YouTube of him saying "I love Hitler" to patrons of a Paris bar.

Religion

"We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature"

Pope Benedict, apologising for the historic violence of Christians.

Education

"We deeply regret these errors. We are extremely angry, because this is not fair on students, parents and teachers. It is not acceptable, and if we find that someone has not done their job, they will lose their job"

Spokesman for Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations board after errors were discovered in Latin and physics exam papers put before 8,000 A-level and GCSE students.

Racism

"I wasn't wise in sending the email out. I shouldn't have done it. I really wasn't thinking when I did it... I am not a racist, but I do think I need to apologise again with different words"

Marilyn Davenport, Orange County Republican, who sent an email with Barack Obama's face superimposed on to a chimpanzee's with the words, "Now you know why – No birth certificate!"

"I now realise how my comments could be construed as racist. However, I assure you that was not my intent. I sincerely apologise to Tiger and anyone else I have offended"

Tiger Woods's caddy, Steve Williams, fired by Woods in July, apologises after telling an awards ceremony audience, "It was my aim to shove it right up that black asshole."

Police

"I am deeply sorry that the Metropolitan Police Service [MPS] has failed to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of Daniel. The MPS has accepted that police corruption in the original investigation was a significant factor in this failure"

Acting Police Commissioner Tim Godwin apologises for the collapse of an investigation into the murder of the private detective Daniel Morgan, who was found outside a south London pub with an axe in his head 24 years ago.

"I want to apologise to the Duggan family. I think that both the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC [Independent Police Complaints Commission] could have managed their concerns far more effectively"

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Kavanagh, Scotland Yard's officer in charge of riot policing, admits to communication failings in telling the family of Mark Duggan – whose shooting sparked the eruption – about the nature of his death.

Business

"You've depended on us for reliable, real-time communications, and right now we're letting you down"

Robin Bienfait, chief information officer of Research in Motion, after BlackBerry services stopped working.

"As a company we – and I – apologise for the inconvenience and concern caused by this attack... I know some believe we should have notified our customers earlier than we did. It's a fair question"

Sir Howard Stringer, chief executive of Sony, tries to mollify customers over the speed at which it alerted them to attacks by PlayStation hackers.

"Our corporate governance was severely criticised. As the representative of the company, I apologise sincerely"

Shuichi Takayama, chairman of Japanese electronics firm Olympus, which has been accused of hiding £958m in losses. The company's executives bowed in apology at a press conference on 15 December.

But...

"Never apologise for the difficult things we are having to do. We are serving a great country at a time of great need. There are no short cuts but we won't flinch. Our values are strong, our instincts are good: reason, not prejudice; compassion, not greed; hope, not fear"

Nick Clegg on the importance of not apologising for the Coalition's travails.

Additional research by Tim Wigmore and Will Dean

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