Lawyers who have spent any time over the past several years following the TV phenomenon known as “American Idol” are familiar with the backhanded compliments and blistering criticisms rendered by Simon Cowell. As one of the three judges of the sometimes adept and often inept singers on the program, the caustic Cowell is renowned for his brutally frank assessments of contestants’ talent or lack thereof. Cowell’s most potent remarks often are preceded by a phrase that is now such a part of his repertoire that it became the title of his autobiography: “I Don’t Mean to Be Rude, But …

The phrase is a rhetorical crutch Cowell uses to soften the sting of his candor. It may be prompted by a convoluted sense of duty to make critical comments that some might consider offensive, so he asks for forgiveness in advance to perhaps mitigate the offense. As a result, Cowell’s persona and the bluntness of his approach are praised and condemned by tens of millions of viewers.

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