Archived: Donald Sterling: 'I Was Baited' Into Racist Comments

In his first interview since recordings surfaced of him making racist comments, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling tells CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he was set up.


“I don’t know why the girl had me say those things,” Sterling says in the interview, which ran Monday night on Anderson Cooper 360. “I was baited. I mean, that’s not the way I talk. I don’t talk about people for one thing, ever. I talk about ideas and other things. I don’t talk about people.

“When I listen to that tape, I don’t even know how I can say words like that. And I’m so sorry, I’m so apologetic. … I never dreamt that this could happen. It’s a terrible, terrible nightmare.”

Since the recordings of conversations with girlfriend V. Stiviano surfaced on April 25, Sterling has been subjected to widespread criticism and derision, and the NBA moved with unprecedented quickness to fine him the maximum $2.5 million and ban him from the league for life. Commissioner Adam Silver also said that he has the support of other owners to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. (A three-quarter majority is needed for such an action, but the belief is that the vote will be 29-0.)

“I’m a good member [of the league] who made a mistake and I’m apologizing and I’m asking for forgiveness,” Sterling tells Cooper, a pained expression on his face. “Am I entitled to one mistake, am I after 35 years I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake It’s a terrible mistake, and I’ll never do it again.”

Asked by Cooper why it took him so long to apologize, Sterling says, “That’s a really good question. I’m so emotionally distraught. And the reason it’s hard for me, very hard for me, is that I’m wrong. I caused the problem. I don’t know how to correct it.”

He adds: “I’m not a racist. I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I’m here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people I’ve hurtand I’ve hurt so many people, so many innocent people. And I’ve hurt myself.”

The oddest part in the five minutes of clips that CNN released on its website is when Sterling discusses NBA legend Magic Johnson, the object of Sterling’s disgust in the initial recording of racist comments. Sterling mentions that he has spoken to Johnson twice. When Cooper asks if he apologized, Sterling ignores the question. When Cooper presses the issue, Sterling hesitates before saying, “If I said anything wrong, I’m sorry. He’s a good person.”

After another pause, Sterling takes a not-so-veiled shot at Johnson: “What am I going to say Has he done everything he can do to help minorities I don’t think so. But I’ll say it, he’s great. I just don’t think he is a good example for the children of Los Angeles.”

See the excerpts below:

Meanwhile, Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, told her side of the story to ABC’s Barbara Walters. She said after hearing Donald Sterling tell her that he does not remember making those comments, “that’s when I thought he had dementia.”

Shelly Sterling told Walters that she has never heard her husband make racist comments about Blacks or Latinos, and that she herself is also not racist.

She also claimed that Donald Sterling was “emotionally abusive and verbally abusive” during their 60-year marriage, and that she “eventually” will file for divorce. “I don’t love him. I pity him and I feel sorry for him,” she said.

Unlike her husband, who told Cooper that at his age he didn’t see the point in tying up the NBA in court for years, Shelly Sterling said she is prepared to fight the league if it attempts to force the sale of the Clippers.

See excerpts of Shelly Sterling’s interview with Walters below.

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