Spurlock issues a Durbin-esque apology

A Durbin-esque “I apologize if you were offended, but I’m not sorry for what I said” non-apology apology was issued today by “Super Size Me” filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who utilized his right to free speech via irresponsible and uncalled for comments. First, the comments:

HORSHAM, Pa. – Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock gave a profanity-laced, politically incorrect speech to several hundred high school students, and not everyone was lovin’ it.

Spurlock, who ate nothing but McDonald’s meals for 30 days to make his Oscar-nominated 2004 documentary “Super Size Me,” spoke at Hatboro-Horsham High School in suburban Philadelphia during its first-ever Health and Wellness Fair.

In his hourlong presentation before 700 students, Spurlock joked about the intelligence of McDonald’s employees, using an Indian accent as he imitated a cashier trying to figure out how to ring up a Quarter Pounder. He also joked about “retarded kids in the back wearing helmets” and teachers smoking pot in the balcony.

The reaction:

There actually were special education students in the back row. Teachers led them out during the hourlong presentation.

“If you put the whole package together, the use of the F-word and poking fun at teachers and the comments about special-needs students, it just wasn’t appropriate,” Superintendent William Lessa said.


Senior Emily Wible said she did not like the jokes about the mentally retarded. “I work with special-needs kids,” she said.

The more disappointing reactions:

Most students laughed, gave Spurlock a standing ovation and mobbed him for autographs.


Juliane Wertley, a senior, said Spurlock was “awesome” and had him autograph a McDonald’s Happy Meal box she brought. He wrote “Unhappy Meal” and “Don’t Eat This.”

Spurlock’s initial response:

“The greatest lesson those kids learned today was the importance of free speech,” he said. “I didn’t talk to them the way most lecturers do and bore them. I made an unaccessible topic accessible and left the room with more friends than enemies.”


Spurlock said that shortly before his appearance, he was told not to talk about McDonald’s because a board member of the education association owns a franchise. The director of the Hatboro-Horsham Education Foundation, which sponsored the appearance, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Spurlock’s claim.

“To think I’m going to give in to that type of censorship is unbelievable,” Spurlock said.

Unapologetic then, and unapologetic now … if you read between the lines. Fast forward to today:

“It is never my intent to insult or demean anyone — and I understand how some of my remarks may have offended some in attendance and if you feel they did, then I am deeply sorry,” he wrote in “A Letter of Explanation,” posted last weekend on his blog.

Translation: I’m not sorry for what I said, but I’m sorry if you were offended by it.

Sounds familiar.

Interesting how he used the freedom of speech to justify his comments. He apparently doesn’t realize, as I’ve repeatedly stated here, that it is not about the right to say something but instead whether or not its right to say, a point echoed in this opinion piece:

As a lawyer and a former reporter, I’m all for the First Amendment. But there is a difference between what we have a right to say and what we should say. The First Amendment promises that, with a few exceptions, the government cannot stifle our desire to say what we want when we want to say it. That does not, however, mean that we should feel compelled to say whatever might pop into our heads. The government shouldn’t filter our speech, but sometimes we should. Sometimes good judgment requires it.

Did Spurlock have a right to poke fun at drug use and at persons with disabilities? He did. Should he have? I don’t think so. I wasn’t in the audience for the speech, but I’ll bet Spurlock a large order of french fries that his vulgarity and attempts at humor didn’t teach the young people in his audience anything worth learning – except, perhaps, that eating fast food for a month may have longer-lasting effects than Spurlock’s documentary suggested.

With freedom comes responsiblity. Mr. Spurlock apparently has yet to figure that out.

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