Falling Back on Non-Apology: An Analysis of Politicians’ Reactions to #MeToo Allegations

This study analyzed the responses of four American politicians accused of sexual misconduct in the midst of the #MeToo movement—former Senator Al Franken, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and former Vice President Joe Biden. An analysis of each of these politicians’ statements through the lenses of Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic pentad and generic criticism uncovered the rhetorical strategies these men used in order to save face in the wake of the allegations. Although these statements exhibited various similarities, it is clear that they do not constitute their own genre but instead fit into the category of a political non-apology. Their responses suggest these men have not adapted to the changing social climate concerning these issues in the #MeToo era and that they continue to rely on more traditional rhetorical strategies to avoid blame in response to allegations of sexual misconduct.