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Fact-checking the interview: Donald Sterling's claims vs. reality

By Holly Yan, CNN
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
  • Sterling said his comments about black men stemmed from jealousy
  • Attorney: Sterling has a history of discrimination from his real estate ventures
  • Sterling says supporters are calling him "by the thousands"
  • He also slammed Magic Johnson, saying he hasn't helped the black community

Watch more of Anderson Cooper's interview with Donald Sterling on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. Cooper will also speak with Magic Johnson.

(CNN) -- If Donald Sterling was trying to make amends with his public mea culpa, he didn't seem to make any friends.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, the embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner apologized profusely for his comments about African-Americans but insisted he is not a racist.

That assertion was to be expected. But a plethora of other claims seem to contradict what others have said.

CLAIM: "Am I entitled to one mistake, am I, after 35 years?"

Sterling: 'I thought she cared for me'
Donald Sterling on race, Magic & the NBA

Sterling told Cooper he's not a racist, just someone who made a "terrible, terrible mistake."

He was referring to the recorded conversation released last month, in which he told friend V. Stiviano that she should stop bringing black people to his games.

"In your lousy f***ing Instagrams, you don't have to have yourself with -- walking with black people," he said, according to the audio posted by TMZ.

In his interview with CNN, Sterling said his off-the-cuff remarks stemmed from jealousy, not racism.

"When she said to me, I'm going to bring four gorgeous black guys to the game ... I was a little jealous," he said.

"Am I entitled to one mistake? It's a terrible mistake, and I'll never do it again."

Sterling: I'm here to apologize and to ask for forgiveness

REALITY: Sterling has been accused of more than just one "mistake."

Based on Sterling's track record with his real estate ventures, the business mogul has made more than one mistake based on discrimination, attorney Gloria Allred said.

"It wasn't one mistake. This is not an isolated incident," Allred told CNN's Bill Weir on Monday night. Allred is representing a woman who organized plaintiffs in a suit against Sterling.

Sterling was sued by the Justice Department in 2006 on allegations that his rental company refused to lease apartments to African-Americans in Beverly Hills and refused to rent to non-Koreans in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles County.

That case was settled in 2009. Sterling agreed to pay nearly $3 million but continuing denying the accusations.

And in 2003, the nonprofit Housing Rights Center and a group of tenants who lived in Sterling's properties sued, accusing him of "numerous discriminatory statements and housing practices," according to court documents.

Sterling "vehemently denied" the allegations and accused the plaintiffs of "being unreliable tenants and for being driven by hidden agendas," according to court documents.

The case was dismissed in 2005 after a settlement was reached. Details of the deal were not disclosed.

Sterling to Anderson Cooper: You're more of a racist than I am


CLAIM: "I was baited. I mean, that's not the way I talk."

Sterling said he was actually echoing words that Stiviano had used before the recording.

"She would always use the word black, that's a black girl, that's a black guy, this is black that's black," Sterling said.

He also said Stiviano's alleged comment about bringing "four gorgeous black guys" to a game came just before the publicized part of the recorded conversation.

"It was like she was baiting me just to say things," Sterling told Cooper.

"When I listen to that tape, I don't even know how I can say words like that."

REALITY: Stiviano blames his age.

Stiviano, who is part black, said she doesn't think the 80-year-old Sterling is a racist.

"No, I don't believe that in my heart," she told ABC's Barbara Walters. "I think the things he says are not what he feels. Anyone can say anything in the heat of the moment.

"I think he comes from a different generation ... he was brought up to believe these things ... segregation, whites and blacks," Stiviano added. "But through his actions, he's shown that he's not a racist. He's shown to be a very generous and kind man."

Ex-NBA player: "Baited" comment is a joke


CLAIM: "The players don't hate me. The sponsors don't hate me."

In fact, Sterling said, people have been calling him "by the thousands" to offer their support.

REALITY: The players have protested, and sponsors have left in droves.

At the first Clippers game after the Sterling controversy broke, players wore their red warm-up shirts inside-out and concealed the Clippers name.

And sponsors such as Kia, CarMax, State Farm Insurance and Virgin America have pulled advertising from the Clippers after the recorded conversation was released.


CLAIM: "Because the media says that the (other NBA) owners want me out doesn't mean that they want me out."

Sterling told Cooper he doesn't just have a good team, he's a "good owner."

REALITY: He didn't ask the owners if they want him out.

Sterling said he has received the support of some other franchise owners. But he later said he didn't ask specifically about whether they wanted him to retain ownership of the Clippers.

It's unclear whether the NBA can legally oust Sterling, CNN legal analyst Danny Cevallos said.

But Commissioner Adam Silver has placed the onus on the owners; they have the burden of deciding whether to oust one of their own.

Yet even if the owners are privately sympathetic to Sterling, "an owner who dares to defend the embattled Clippers owner commits social seppuku," Cevallos said.

On the other hand, NBA owners are independent thinkers and independently wealthy, he said. If anyone can weather criticism, it's these captains of industry.


CLAIM: Earvin "Magic" Johnson "doesn't do anything" for African-Americans.

In perhaps the most bizarre part of his interview, Sterling lambasted the retired Los Angeles Lakers legend, who was mentioned several times in Sterling's recorded exchange with Stiviano.

"What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV? Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about?" Sterling asked. "I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn't do anything."

REALITY: Johnson has made plenty of impact off the court.

Johnson has launched numerous business ventures not just to help the black community, but to invigorate the economies of impoverished areas.

He founded Magic Johnson Enterprises and began investing in movie theaters, restaurants and fitness centers. The five-time NBA champion has focused on bringing high-quality businesses to diverse communities.

He is also chairman and CEO of the Magic Johnson Foundation, which aims to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through awareness and education. The foundation has also raised more than $20 million for charity and given almost $4 million in scholarships.

What has Magic Johnson done? Quite a lot, actually

CNN's Christine Romans, Steve Almasy, Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

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