Editorial: A Not-So-Sorry Excuse in Cornish

For a relatively inexperienced officeholder, Cornish School Board member Holly Taft demonstrated unusual mastery of the non-apology apology at last week’s board meeting.

Having provoked a firestorm last month by posting on Facebook a term of vulgar disparagement in apparent reference to constituents with whom she had disagreed over a matter of school policy, Taft first tried to extricate herself by implausibly contending that the remark was directed at unspecified others whom she continues to refuse to identify.

That predictably failed to quell the outrage, which spilled over at a board meeting May 27. Incensed residents demanded the opportunity to be heard, which board Chairman Troy Simono unwisely declined to provide. What ensued was a three-ring circus with no lion tamer present.

Last week, the board convened in special session with about 60 members of the community, during which it received a petition bearing 70 signatures calling for her resignation. Taft, who is serving her first term on the board, took the opportunity to read a two-page statement that was a near-perfect exercise in blame-shifting. Its flavor can be distilled from the following passage.

“Firstly, I do apologize that my foul language made numerous appearances in newspaper articles. I do feel sorry that the public was repeatedly bombarded with a nasty word that was not for public consumption. I do apologize if anyone felt offended or felt that the comment I made was aimed at them. I do regret that my irreverent and obnoxious comment, taken completely out of context, set the tone for an egregiously terrible School Board meeting last week and that my personal comment to a friend incensed a population so deeply that they would boo, hiss, stomp their feet, scream obscenities in front of children and begin mini-melees in what should be a place of decorum.”

Taft went on to say that, “I do not intend to resign from the School Board now, and I will not resign from the board in the future simply because a certain group within the Cornish community does not like me.”

In other words: The press created this whole controversy to make my life miserable and kept it alive by repeatedly calling attention to what was really a private comment, even though I posted it on Facebook. It’s too bad if anybody was offended by it, but that’s really their problem. And did I mention that the public totally over-reacted at last week’s meeting and behaved far worse than I did? My enemies want me to resign, but I’m not going to give them the satisfaction. They hate me because I’m a fiscal conservative and because I’m willing to do the hard and unpopular things that need to be done.

It took us a while to place that tone of aggrievement. Then it hit us: She was channeling the embattled Richard Nixon, persecuted by a hostile press and enemies who would stop at nothing to destroy him. Well, OK, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but the faint whiff of sanctimony is unmistakable in Taft’s statement.

There was a better way to do this. She might simply have written: “I deeply regret the offense I have given to many in Cornish by thoughtlessly employing, in a moment of frustration, a disgusting vulgarity to describe those with whom I disagreed. I am a better person than that, and I am committed to demonstrating it through my continued service on the School Board and in my life in this community.”