Project Type

URC Presentation



College or School


Class Year



Communication: Business Applications

Faculty Research Advisor

Lawrence Prelli


Apologia deals with someone's morals or character being called into question in a way that requires a response. In speeches of apologetic discourse, a speaker attempts to redeem themselves with the audience through their speech and actions.. This paper examines apologetic discourse in relation to sexual allegation scandals. Specifically the paper focuses on Bill Clinton’s televised speech on August 17th, 1998, addressing the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and Donald Trump’s video posted to Facebook on October 7th, 2016, addressing the recently leaked Access Hollywood Tape. These speeches are analyzed rhetorically with the central question being when facing scandals of a sexual nature, what different rhetorical strategies are used by rhetors in order to achieve redemption with their different audiences and restore their image, and are they successful with the rhetorical strategies they employ in their speech? Conceptually, the work of Ware and Linkugel (1973) and the four common strategies of denial, bolstering, differentiation, and transcendence in apologetic speeches guide the analysis. Overall, it is determined that neither Trump or Clinton reached the mark and each failed rhetorically. This is because both speakers reverted to attacking their accusers and opponents instead of being remorseful for their actions. Trump and Clinton would have been successful rhetorically, had they expressed mortification and given corrective action. Instead they attempted to evade their responsibilities and digressed into attacks when what was needed was a genuine apology.