Sorry, not sorry

Ted Yoho’s infelicitous apology as reification of toxic masculinity


  • Gabriella Licata University of California, Berkeley



right-wing populism, citationality, image repair, toxic masculinity


Right-wing populism emboldens its members to publicly challenge those they find threatening to white conservative frameworks, e.g. progressive female politicians of colour. I critically analyse how Republican Ted Yoho uses discursive agency to deliver infelicitous statements in response to the diatribe he directed at Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in July 2020. Guided by the principles of citationality (Derrida 1988), I utilise image repair theory (Benoit 1997) to reveal how Yoho minimises the alleged offences he committed by redirecting his rant at policy, not person. This allows Yoho to issue non-apologies and – in line with right-wing populism – villainize Ocasio-Cortez and elevate himself and his party. Both Democrats and Republicans deemed Yoho’s apology ‘appropriate’, resulting in unfavourable perlocutionary effects for female politicians of colour. The dismissal of Yoho’s offences highlights the normalisation of violent language directed at women of colour, revealing how white supremacy and toxic masculinity are normalised aspects of US media ecology.

Author Biography

Gabriella Licata, University of California, Berkeley

Gabriella Licata is a PhD candidate in Romance Linguistics and Gender, Women, and Sexuality studies at UC Berkeley. Her research uses raciolinguistic and intersectional frameworks to understand how standard language ideologies influence perceptions of language use. Gabriella utilises mixed methodologies to assess language behaviour in sociolinguistic experiments, social media, and political discourse in both US and European contexts.


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How to Cite

Licata, G. . (2021). Sorry, not sorry: Ted Yoho’s infelicitous apology as reification of toxic masculinity. Journal of Language and Discrimination, 5(2), 166–198.