The biggest celebrity apologies on social media in 2020
Social media was made for saying sorry
2020 has turned out to be an unpredictable year, to say the least, but one thing we can always count on is celebrities needing to issue apologies for their behavior. From minor issues, like John Mulaney having to miss a comedy festival to host Saturday Night Live, to serious offenses, such as Lea Michele being accused of making Glee “a living hell” for actress Samantha Ware, celebs have turned to social media seeking atonement from their fans. It’s been a big year for apologies, and these celebrities are among the many who have taken to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to say, “I’m sorry.”
Wendy Williams apologized in January after saying Joaquin Phoenix was “oddly attractive” and making mocking gestures about what she thought was his cleft lip or cleft palate (the actor has said it’s actually a birthmark). After catching criticism from fans, as well as from the likes of Cher and Canadian football player Adam Bighill, the Wendy Williams Show host apologized to the “cleft community” and donated to Operation Smile and the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association.
The usually outspoken Terry Crews caught flak from fans in January for not vocally supporting his America’s Got Talent costar Gabrielle Union, who departed from the competition series in November over alleged racially insensitive situations. While other celebrities like Debra Messing publicly supported Union, Crews, who hosts AGT, only said he never experienced racism on the show. He was further criticized for doubling down and stating he only needed to please “one woman on earth,” referring to his wife. Crews later apologized to Union, tweeting that he “invalidated your experience,” and added to it in June by saying he was wrong “for not recognizing the privilege I have — especially in the workplace.”
Crews followed it up with a third apology, months later, after Union revisited the situation on a podcast and said he showed "what he does during times of adversity, and it’s not solidarity.”
"This will be my 3rd public apology to Gabrielle Union," Crews tweeted in response on Aug. 1. "If a 4th is needed, I will continue to apologize and push for reconciliation between the world, and more importantly, the culture I grew up in."
Few celebrities can do an apology like John Mulaney, In February, the comic had to cancel his appearance at the JFL42 festival in Toronto to go host Saturday Night Live, and he posted an Instagram note, apparently written by SNL EP Lorne Michaels, explaining that he “is simply doing his duty, and there is nothing more Canadian than that.” “Also I’m afraid of Lorne so I do what he says,” the funnyman captioned the post.
A wholesome fundraiser at an elementary school turned sour when Disney fined the school $250 for showing the studio’s The Lion King remake at the event without a license. Bob Iger, Disney’s executive chairman and former CEO, apologized to the school on Twitter. “Our company @WaltDisneyCo apologizes to the Emerson Elementary School PTA and I will personally donate to their fund raising initiative,” he wrote.
Many people took issue with Gayle King’s interview with WNBA star Lisa Leslie where the journalist inquired about Kobe Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault case, but no one was angrier than Snoop Dogg, who was a longtime friend of the late basketball superstar. The rapper released an expletive-laden Instagram video that seemed to threaten King, with him saying “Back off, b----, before we come get you” in one part. In his first response to people condemning his strong words, he denied intimidating the journalist, before later issuing a full apology to King. "I publicly tore you down by coming at you in a derogatory manner … I should have handled it way different than that," Snoop said.
Not even a month after causing controversy with her statements about Joaquin Phoenix, Wendy Williams was called out by fans for making homophobic comments. On her talk show, Williams said gay men should stop trying to “be the woman that we are,” in regards to men wanting to celebrate the female-centric Galentine’s Day. “Stop wearing our skirts and our heels,” she also said. On Valentine’s Day, Williams released a tearful apology video to her LGBTQ+ fans.
Bachelor contestant Victoria Fuller had her Cosmopolitan digital cover rescinded after photos of the reality star modeling for a White Lives Matter clothing campaign resurfaced. The 26-year-old later apologized on her Instagram Story, clarifying that the photoshoot was for an organization supporting endangered species called the white marlin. “I want to say that I unequivocally reject the beliefs of the white lives matter movement or any propaganda that supports racism of any kind,” Fuller added.
With everyone making sacrifices during COVID-19, fans were upset when Vanderpump Rules star Scheana Shay defied health guidelines in mid-March by inviting friends via Twitter to join her at home in quarantine, adding, “Call me ‘ignorant’ but I’m not gonna stop living!” Although Shay ended up apologizing, she wouldn’t completely back down and excused her ignorance by saying she isn’t “a person who regularly watches the news.” When a social media user expressed annoyance with Shay, the VPR star responded, “If I didn’t annoy people, I probably wouldn’t have a job.”
Before RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12 even debuted, the drag community turned against contestant Sherry Pie over allegations that surfaced in March. The drag performer, whose real name is Joey Gugliemelli, was accused by aspiring actor Ben Shimkus of posing as a casting director and forcing him to film “sexual and awkward” scenes, with Shimkus saying multiple people he knew had the same experience with Gugliemelli. Sherry Pie posted an apology, but the contestant was still disqualified from Drag Race and significantly cut from pre-taped scenes in the new installment. Additionally, VH1 and World of Wonder, which produces the show, made a $5000 donation to support mental health among LGBTQ+ youth.
Actor Corey Feldman apologized to fans after the livestream premiere of his sexual abuse documentary (My) Truth: The Rape of Two Coreys was plagued by streaming issues that Feldman said was caused by hackers. EW was in attendance at the in-person screening, and the explosive film featured Feldman naming the men who he says sexually assaulted him and Corey Haim when they were child stars. Among them was Charlie Sheen, who Feldman accused of raping Haim when the two filmed 1986’s Lucas. After the technological snafu, the screening resumed, but then in a twist, Feldman soon announced he had to go “into hiding” outside the U.S as “people been trying 2 silence me.”
Vanessa Hudgens should’ve just stuck to dancing to High School Musical on TikTok during quarantine. But instead, the 31-year-old singer and actress decided to become the most hated person on Instagram when she said on Live that people dying from coronavirus was “inevitable” and that lockdown was “a bunch of bull----.” Hudgens irked people even more by saying her words were taken “out of context,” before finally apologizing via the Notes app. "I'm so sorry for the way i have offended anyone and everyone,” she wrote on March 17. “I realize my words were insensitive and not at all appropriate for the situation our country and the world are in right now. This has been a huge wake up call about the significance my words have."
Ant-Man star Evangeline Lilly joined the “celebrities making tone-deaf statements about COVID-19” club in late March, when she declared it was “business as usual” on Instagram and suggested she wouldn’t self-isolate as her freedom was more important than the pandemic. The actress was quickly and widely criticized, and 10 days later, on March 26, Lilly apologized for her “dismissive, arrogant” message. “I thought I was infusing calm into the hysteria. I can see now that I was projecting my own fears into an already fearful and traumatic situation,” she wrote.
Tyra Banks was one of the few celebrities to immediately own up to her mistakes when she was called out in May for an old America’s Next Top Model clip. In the resurfaced clip from 2006, which was among numerous videos from the modeling competition show that have raised eyebrows in recent months, host Banks tells contestant Danielle Evans that the gap in her teeth is “not marketable” and she should close it to secure a Covergirl contract (later, she told a contestant in another cycle to widen her gap). In response, Banks tweeted, “Been seeing the posts about the insensitivity of some past ANTM moments and I agree with you. Looking back, those were some really off choices. Appreciate your honest feedback and am sending so much love and virtual hugs."
Jimmy Kimmel never misses a chance to take shots at the Trump administration, but the late night host fell for an edited video when mocking Vice President Mike Pence in May. On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the host skewered the VP for allegedly pretending to carry heavy boxes while visiting a healthcare center, calling Pence “a big box of nothing.” After a rep for Pence pointed out that in the full video the politician was joking and did lift full boxes of PPE, Kimmel publicly apologized on his show in the only way he can. “Apologizing to the Trump administration for spreading untruth is like apologizing to Barry Bonds for using steroids. It’s hard,” the comedian quipped.
Alison Roman became another case of “she should’ve just sat there and ate her food,” after the food writer earned scorn for going after Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo in a May interview. A lot of users took issue with Roman, a white woman, only singling out Asian women for selling products, when she herself was coming out with a cookware line. After first tweeting out apologies, Roman shared a longer note. “They’ve worked extremely hard to get to where they are and both deserve better than my tone deaf remarks,” Roman wrote about Teigen and Kondo, adding later, “Our culture frequently goes after women, especially women of color, and I’m ashamed to have contributed to that.” Teigen seemed to have quickly moved on, and even said she was unhappy that The New York Times put Roman on “temporary leave” with no explanation. Kondo did not publicly comment on Ronan’s interview or apology.
It’s ironic that Bryan Adams has a song called “Please Forgive Me,” because that’s exactly what the Canadian singer asked in May. The musician vented about not being able to perform in London due to COVID-19, which he blamed China for. “Thanks to some f---ng bat eating, wet market animal selling, virus making greedy bastards, the whole world is now on hold,” Adams captioned his Instagram video. The singer soon apologized, after people accused him of complaining and spreading xenophobic misinformation. “I have love for all people and my thoughts are with everyone dealing with this pandemic around the world,” he captioned the Instagram post.
After initially denying that she used the N-word while rapping along to DaBaby’s “Rockstar” on Instagram Live in May, The Bachelorette star Hannah Brown acknowledged and apologized for her mistake. “There is no excuse and I will not justify what I said. I have read your messages and seen the hurt I have caused. I own it all,” she wrote in her Instagram Story. Former Bachelor contestant Bekah Martinez was among those criticizing Brown, while Tyler Cameron, who competed for Brown's affection on The Bachelorette, defended his costar. “Hate only makes more hate. Let's learn and lift each other up with love,” he said.
Chase Stokes learned the hard way this year that growing popularity also comes with growing scrutiny. The rising star, who played protagonist John B. in Netflix’s popular new series Outer Banks, was taken to task for past offensive remarks about the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and others. Stokes admitted to posting “insensitive tweets,” writing "I am flawed, and I am sorry,” but he also blamed Facebook hackers for other incidents. Then, the actor’s apology, as well as his previous tweets, disappeared from his account, which he also attributed to hackers. Not everyone bought that explanation, with one user tweeting, “i have to give it to you this is the most confusing apology i’ve ever seen."
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey has already landed in hot water twice this year. Most recently, the singer was called out by Kehlani, Tinashe, and others for sharing videos that showed looting and revealed demonstrators’ faces at protests against police brutality. Her posts, which Kehlani said “[endangered] the lives of black people” by disclosing identities, were later deleted. The R&B singer actually was one of the artists named by Del Rey in her controversial statement from May 21, in which she attacked critics who say her music is “glamorizing abuse” while Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and others have notched hits “about being sexy, wearing no clothes, f---ing, cheating, etc." After users said she was attacking women of color, Del Rey remained unapologetic, saying the artists were her “favorite f---ing people,” In a followup post, she told fans that “making it about race says so much more about you than it does about me.”
Singer and rapper Doja Cat came under fire in late May for releasing a 2015 track titled “Dindu Nuffin,” which is a racist slur often used to mock black victims of police brutality. The “Say So” artist also faced backlash for taking part in past racist video chat rooms. The 24-year-old apologized for joining the chats but denied being personally “involved in any racist conversations.” As for the song, Doja said it was “written in response to people who often used that term to hurt me,” but acknowledged “it was a bad decision to use the term in my music." The musician has previously apologized for using a homophoic slur in a 2015 tweet.
While Jimmy Fallon’s Saturday Night Live sketch from 2000, in which he wore blackface to impersonate Chris Rock, had been periodically resurfaced and criticized, the comedian had never publicly addressed it before this year. "There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable,” the Tonight Show host tweeted on May 26.
Amid protests over the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of police, Colombian artist Karol G tried to support Black Lives Matter by tweeting out a photo of her black-and-white-coated dog in early June, captioning it “Black and White TOGETHER look beautiful." Predictably, the thoughtless tweet backfired and the singer apologized, vowing to keep “educating myself to understand the experience.”
Actress Samantha Marie Ware called out former castmate Lea Michele’s hypocrisy in June, after the Glee star tweeted support for Black Lives Matter. Ware accused Michele of making her time on the Fox show “a living hell,” and even said she threatened to “s--- in my wig.” Ware’s tweet led numerous other Glee alums like Alex Newell and Heather Morris to come forward about Michele’s rude behavior, and the company HelloFresh later severed ties with the performer. In her response, which some people deemed a non-apology, Michele conveyed remorse for being “perceived as insensitive,” and said “I will be better in the future from this experience."
While protests against police brutality rocked the world in June, Six Feet Under star Rachel Griffiths had other priorities. The Australian actress shared a now-deleted Instagram picture of her fresh manicure, saying it was easier to take in the news “with beautiful nails” and even admitting her words were “shallow.” After the ensuing backlash, Griffiths apologized for trivializing serious issues and wrote that “I have along [sic] way to go to truly understand my white b---- privilege.”
Abby Lee Miller
Former Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller posted a blackout square to protest racism in June, but two moms from the reality series didn’t buy Miller’s sincerity. They alleged that the dance coach made racist remarks to their young daughters, tokenized them, and appropriated Black culture. Although Miller apologized on Instagram, both women told EW they did not accept the reality star’s words. "Her money is being affected; that is the only reason she’s speaking out. She’s had years to apologize for the things she’s said to [my daughter] Camryn," Camille Bridges said in a statement. Later, Lifetime pulled Miller’s dance-off show, which was set to premiere in late June.
Riverdale creator and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa apologized to Vanessa Morgan in June, after the actress revealed that she's "the only black series regular" on the show "but also paid the least." Aguirre-Sacasa made a promise to "do better" by all the actors of color on the show. "We hear Vanessa. We love Vanessa. She's right," he tweeted.
Search Party and Arrested Development star Alia Shawkat apologized in June for using the N-word in a resurfaced 2016 interview in which she quoted lyrics from Drake's "We Made It." The actress shared a lengthy statement on her social media platforms, writing that she was "ashamed and embarrassed" of the video. Shawkat, 31, also acknowledged the "nuanced access I've been afforded" as an Arabic woman "who can pass for white."
The Challenge's Dee Nguyen was called out in June for being insincere after taking part in Blackout Tuesday. Tula “Big T” Fazakerley, another cast member on the MTV reality series, was among those who said Nguyen's solidarity was fake. "She said she was ‘blacker’ than me because I didn’t know the name of a musician and because she hadn’t seen me fight and be aggressive,” Fazakerley said, adding that Nguyen treated her like a "stereotype." At first, Nguyen didn't seem to think she was wrong and even joked in a comment that she's supported Black Lives Matter "since the day I lost my virginity." She later apologized, but it was too late — the next day, MTV announced it had "severed ties" with Nguyen.
In mid-June, Spike Lee stood up for his fellow filmmaker Woody Allen, who has been publicly denounced by many in the industry due to sexual assault allegations against him. "Short of killing somebody, I don't if you can just erase somebody like they never existed," the Da 5 Bloods director said about the backlash. A day later, Lee took back his words and apologized. "I Deeply Apologize. My Words Were WRONG,” the director tweeted. “I Do Not And Will Not Tolerate Sexual Harassment, Assault Or Violence. Such Treatment Causes Real Damage That Can’t Be Minimized.”
Comedian Catherine Cohen, who recently appeared in Netflix's The Lovebirds, spoke up after a 2016 sketch of hers featuring racist imagery was unearthed. In the satirical music video, Cohen puts a rope around a black man's neck while he poses as a slave. While Cohen said the video was made to call out "performative activism," the comedian deeply apologized for "making a joke at the expense of hundreds of years of trauma."
Comedian Josh Thomas has been vocal about social issues, like supporting Indigenous people in his native Australia, but he was recently criticized for his comments about race four years ago. In a video from a 2016 panel, Thomas claimed it was difficult casting people of color on TV, saying "finding an experienced actor that's not white is really hard." The Everything's Gonna Be Okay creator has since apologized for his "dumb, illogical," and "insensitive" stance. "Authentic diversity in casting (and behind the scenes) is something that is really important to me," Thomas said in a statement. "I am committed to doing better."
The Good Place producer Megan Amram apologized to her fans in June, after Twitter users brought to light her offensive tweets from the early 2010s about Asians, Jewish people, and individuals with disabilities. "There are no excuses. I will be sorry for as long as I live that I have hurt even one person," she wrote in a lengthy statement posted on Twitter. Amram, who also wrote for Silicon Valley and Parks & Recreation, then specifically apologized to the Asian-American community, saying they are the ones "I have hurt most with my tweets."
Rapper Noname apologized on June 21 for releasing "Song 33" in response to J. Cole's track "Snow on tha Bluffs," which seemed to shade her. Even though she wanted to bring attention to issues like "trans women being murdered" in the song, the Chicago artist said it only caused "further distraction." She also announced that a portion of the track's earnings would go to "mutual aid funds." J. Cole said he "stands behind every word" of his record.
Florence Pugh shared a lengthy post on Instagram in late June, apologizing for past cultural appropriation. The Little Women actress admitted that when she was younger she did things like wear corn rows or sport Rastafarian attire in a way that wasn't "respectful in how I was using it." “Stupid doesn’t even cut it, I was uneducated. I was unread," she wrote. "I cannot dismiss the actions I bought into years ago but I believe that we who were blind to such things must acknowledge them and recognize them as our faults, our ignorance and our white privilege and I apologise profusely that it took this long.”
In September, David Byrne apologized for a 1984 skit in which the former Talking Heads frontman appears in brownface and blackface in a video for the band's concert film Stop Making Sense. "I acknowledge it was a major mistake in judgement that showed a lack of real understanding," Byrne tweeted. "It’s like looking in a mirror and seeing someone else — you’re not, or were not, the person you thought you were. We have huge blind spots about ourselves — well, I certainly do. I’d like to think I am beyond making mistakes like this, but clearly at the time I was not."
While fans have praised Rihanna’s brand Savage x Fenty for its inclusion of models of all looks and backgrounds, the mogul had to apologize in October for a misstep during the lingerie collection’s Vol. 2 fashion show. Fans pointed out that Coucou Chloe’s “Doom,” a song the models danced to during the show, remixed a Hadith narration. In Islam, the Hadith is a sacred scripture of the sayings and traditions of the Prophet Mohammed. Rihanna addressed the backlash on Instagram, apologizing for an “honest, yet careless mistake.” “We understand that we have hurt many of our Muslim brothers and sisters, and I'm incredibly disheartened by this!” she wrote. “I do not play with any kind of disrespect toward God or any religion and therefore the use of the song in our show was completely irresponsible! Moving forward we will make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”
Country singer and The Voice alum Morgan Wallen faced heavy scrutiny after videos surfaced of him partying and not wearing a mask in large crowds of people the weekend before he was to be Saturday Night Live’s musical guest. In an emotional Instagram video posted on Oct. 8, Wallen apologized and revealed that SNL had dropped him from the show. "My actions this past weekend were pretty short-sighted, and they've obviously affected my long-term goals and my dreams," Wallen said. "I respect the show's decision because I know that I put them in jeopardy. I take ownership for this. I'd like to apologize to SNL, to my fans, to my team for bringing me these opportunities. I let them down.”
In November, Anne Hathaway apologized for "the pain caused" to people with limb differences by her character in HBO Max's The Witches. In the Roald Dahl adaptation, Hathaway portrays the evil Grand High Witch, who has three fingers on each hand that resemble the congenital disorder ectrodactyly. "Now that I know better I promise I'll do better," the actress wrote on Instagram. The Robert Zemeckis-directed film came under criticism from disability advocates for perpetuating negative stereotypes about people with limb differences. The filmmakers and studio Warner Bros. also issued a statement saying they were "deeply saddened" and "regret any offense caused."
Recording Academy to Tiffany Haddish
The Recording Academy's interim president and CEO publicly apologized to Tiffany Haddish in December, after the comedian revealed the organization wanted her to cover her own expenses to host the 63rd Grammy Awards pre-telecast ceremony. Haddish said she turned down the opportunity, which would've been unpaid, and called the demands "disrespectful.” In response, Academy head Harvey Mason Jr. said he was "frustrated by" the stipulation, which he was unaware of previously. "It was a lapse in judgement, it was in poor taste and it was disrespectful to the creative community," he said in an Instagram video.