Boris Johnson’s Apology Is Part of a Long Tradition

Ms. Merkel, Germany’s first female chancellor, who led the country from 2006 until last month, was known for her deft stewardship of Europe’s most powerful economy, support for Western democracies and a science-based approach to combating the pandemic. But she made a rare admission of error last March, scrapping a plan to prolong an unpopular lockdown during the Easter holiday. Although well intended, she said, “the idea of the extended Easter break was a mistake.”

Mr. Woods, the world’s most famous golfer, admitted in 2009 to having committed unspecified errors of judgment after reports emerged that he had engaged in multiple extramarital affairs. “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart,” Mr. Woods wrote on his website. “I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.” His apology and plea for privacy were received positively, including from corporate sponsors.

Ms. Stewart, the celebrity homemaker and media personality, was convicted in 2004 of having lied to investigators about a stock sale, and was sentenced to five months in prison. While she sought to play down the conviction as a “small personal matter” and vowed to rebound from it (which she did), Ms. Stewart was also contrite about the effects. “Today is a shameful day,” she said. “It’s shameful for me, and for my family, and for my beloved company, and for all of its employees and partners.”

In June 2009, Mr. Sanford, then the governor of South Carolina and a rising star in the Republican Party, disappeared for six days without explanation — not even his wife knew. His spokesman later said he had been hiking the Appalachian Trail. Local journalists acting on a tip learned he was with his mistress in Argentina, confronting him at the airport upon his return. The scandal destroyed his marriage, and “Appalachian Trail” became a euphemism for infidelity. Mr. Sanford apologized in a speech that evoked biblical tales of redemption. “I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching on that front and what I find interesting is the story of David and the way in which he fell mightily, he fell in very, very significant ways. But then picked up the pieces and built from there.”

Mr. Gibson, the film star and director, was accused in July 2006 of having made virulently anti-Semitic remarks to an arresting officer who stopped him on suspicion of drunken driving near his home in Malibu, Calif. Mr. Gibson sought to make amends in a statement issued by his publicist. “I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone I may have offended.”