In an interview with a journalist a short time back, Seagate CEO Bill Watkins made a joke about his company's mission: "Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap--and watch porn." Seagate employees were offended, and so Watkins did the manly thing--he blamed somebody else.
He issued what's known in Washington, D.C., circles as a "non-apology-apology," where you put out what appears to be an apology but, in fact, is an explanation of how you did nothing wrong, aside from committing the sin of being too dewy-eyed, boyish, and trusting, and it's all somebody else's fault.
"Even though I believe Fortune's headline writers took my comments out of context, I want you to know that I am sorry if this has in any way offended anyone," Watkins said.
Note to Watkins: How about you just man up and take responsibility for what you said? The journalist did his job and quoted you, and if it was an offensive thing to say, it's nobody's fault but your own.
For what it's worth, I don't blame Seagate's employees for being offended. It's not the porn reference that bugs me -- I can take a little (or a lot) of adolescent humor. It's the implication that what Seagate does isn't important. Sure, Seagate's disk drives are used in computers that store pornography and buy "crap" -- but other computers with Seagate drives in them are used for health care and medical research, publishing great art, running businesses that improve our lives, and defending the free world from threats foreign and domestic. Storage is essential to IT, and IT is important, damn it.
And yet I also don't condemn Watkins for saying the offensive thing. He put his foot in his mouth. Happens to all of us.
What I blame him for is attempting to duck responsibility for his own actions and blame the messenger for telling the world what he did. He should have just issued a real apology, and moved on.