Donald Sterling Claims He Was ‘Baited,’ Calls Racist Rant a ‘Terrible Mistake’

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Photo: CNN/AC360

Nearly two weeks after the NBA banned him for life, disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has decided to try communicating with the public directly, rather than relying on secret recordings. In an interview with Anderson Cooper set to air Monday night, the billionaire claims he was "baited" into making racist comments. "When I listen to that tape, I don't even know how I can say words like that. ... I don't know why the girl had me say those things," he says. "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." So basically, he's going with the Trump defense.

Like The Donald, who dismissed the debacle as a "set up by a very, very bad girlfriend" who is "a terrible human being," Donald Sterling suggests he was duped by alleged mistress V. Stiviano. "An 80-year-old man is kind of foolish, and I'm kind of foolish. I thought she liked me and really cared for me," he says. "I guess being 51 years older than her, I was deluding myself. ... I just wish I could ask her why, and if she was just setting me up."

While he insists "I'm not a racist," Sterling does accept some blame. "I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I'm here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I've hurt," he tells Cooper. "The reason it's hard for me, very hard for me [to speak out publicly], is that I'm wrong. I caused the problem. I don't know how to correct it."

Not peppering your apologies with new insults would probably be a good start. When Cooper asks if Sterling has apologized to Magic Johnson, whose appearance on Stiviano's Instagram sparked his tirade, he says they've spoken twice since the story broke. "If I said anything wrong, I'm sorry," Sterling says. "He's a good person. I mean, 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. But I don't think he's a good example for the children of Los Angeles."

Despite his many errors in judgment – and the fact that it doesn't appear he's learned anything – Sterling thinks the NBA's punishment is too harsh. "I'm a good member who made a mistake and I'm apologizing and I'm asking for forgiveness," he says. "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." Now, his fate is up to the other 29 NBA owners, who will vote on whether to force Sterling to sell the team. "If the owners feel I have another chance, then they'll give it to me," he says.