Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin have apologized for having written “racially insensitive” cracks last year about President Obama in a now-public e-mail exchange, thanks to the Asian hackers. With Pascal about to attend a Jeffrey Katzenberg-hosted breakfast for the visiting President, she and Rudin bantered about what African-American movies Obama might have seen…ouch. An embarrassment, of course, but Pascal or Rudin are no more racist than you or me or Mike Binder or Glenn Kenny. I know Rudin slightly and have spoken once or twice to Pascal. They’re good Type-A people. Willful and tough but no fools, and careful as their positions require, which is to say “very.”

Here’s my theory about why they wrote what they wrote. On their own terms neither Pascal nor Rudin would come within 1000 feet of making a casually dismissive racist remark. But together and especially online they form a third “industry” personality — a combined persona that is more competitive, more cynical, a little less precise…more bluster and bravado than they would normally exude. While conversing the gentler angels of their nature take a backseat.

We’ve all experienced this syndrome socially. We say things in the company of friends and colleagues that we don’t really mean or believe, but we say them anyway because we want to banter and bond and keep the ball in the air, and sometimes we get sloppy and say something coarse, and for no reason that makes any real sense. We say something stupid or trite and then ask ourselves, “Did I just say that?”

“To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologize for any injury they might have caused,” Rudin said in a statement. “I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive — and not funny at all.”

Pascal’s statement: “The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am. Although this was a private communication that was stolen, I accept full responsibility for what I wrote and apologize to everyone who was offended.”