one rotten (or bad) apple spoils the barrel

Bad apples excuse

A bad apples excuse or few bad apples excuse is a rhetorical attempt to spin misdeeds within a group as isolated to a "few bad apples". The term has been applied to excuses for corporate fraud in the wake of the Enron scandal , for the Abu Ghraib torture and prison abuse case, the Chicago Police Department's response to off-duty officer Anthony Abatte's videotaped beating of a bartender and in a hypothetical sense involving projections about organizational accountability. The term became popular soon after the airing of a Canadian broadcast from the CBC's Fifth Estate television series called "A Few Bad Apples". According to Michael Ignatieff, "The Few Bad Apples excuse is institutions' invariable first response to moral failure and it’s the wrong response."

see also: Ulster Defence Regiment, Moazzam Begg, Stanford prison experiment, The Corporation and cover up


  • "So then I started hearing about different things, I started hearing about the seven bad apples analogy, so I went to Congress. I said, 'I'll either go to the media or you all will listen.' And Congress was very anxious to listen." - Ken Davis, from "A Few Bad Apples" (31:39)Dont be a bad apple!
  • "In Iraq, what happened at that prison, it is now clear, is not the result of random acts of a few bad apples. It was the natural consequence of the Bush Administration policy." - Al Gore
  • "Is it fair to be suspicious of an entire profession because of a few bad apples? There are at least two important differences, it seems to me. First, no one doubts that science actually works, whatever mistaken and fraudulent claim may from time to time be offered. But whether there are *any* "miraculous" cures from faith-healing, beyond the body's own ability to cure itself, is very much at issue. Secondly, the exposé of fraud and error in science is made almost exclusively by science. But the exposure of fraud and error in faith-healing is almost never done by other faith-healers." - Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
  • "I think most Americans understood that the My Lai massacre was not representative of our people, of the war we were fighting, or of our men who were fighting it; but from the time it first became public the whole tragic episode was used by the media and the antiwar forces to chip away at our efforts to build public support for our Vietnam objectives and policies." - Richard M. Nixon
  • "Anyone who has declared someone else to be an idiot, a bad apple, is annoyed when it turns out in the end that he isn’t." - Friedrich Nietzsche
  • "For there is no good tree which produces corrupt fruit, nor a corrupt tree which produces good fruit." - attributed to Jesus
  • "One bad apple spoils the bunch" (proverb)


"bad apples are like mean beans"

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