I'm thinking about the Montana congressman-elect Greg Gianforte and his apology to the reporter he assaulted after initially denying it and winning his election.

The general idea I'm after is waiting until your misdeed has served its purpose before apologizing.

  • "smart apology"?
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 9:34
  • 2
    I don't think it quite covers it, and I don't have a reference, but I'd call it (at least) an empty apology. Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 19:33
  • 1
    Crocodile tears seemed good to me but if that doesn't cover it what's wrong with a fake apology or just a lie? Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 19:24
  • Act now, apologize later? But Gianforte's action was (arguably) not an action taken to further his reelection, but a loss of temper.
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 20:11

3 Answers 3


Offering an apology after reaping the benefits or escaping the consequences goes to an apology that is:

insincere: not honest in the expression of actual feeling; hypocritical. (Dictionary.com)

disingenuous: lacking in sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous. (Dictionary.com)

hollow: insincere or false. (Dictionary.com)

pro forma: made or carried out in a perfunctory manner or as a formality (M-W)

  • I think "hollow" is the best term for this scenario. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 16:53

"Shut the barn/stable door after the horse has bolted."

This doesn't have the meaning of an apology but does directly speak to doing something after the point at which it would have had a useful effect.

Source: Collins dictionary


It sounds like the congressman is shedding 'Crocodile Tears'.

From Oxford Living Dictionaries:

crocodile tears


Tears or expressions of sorrow that are insincere.

‘they weep crocodile tears for the poor and disadvantaged, but are basically happy with things as they are’

  • 1
    "Crocodile tears" refers more to falsifying something, not to choosing the timing of it to suit your purpose. Though the apology may have been insincere, the question is explicitly concerned with the timing.
    – AndyT
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 11:24

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