Politics

Is 'Mistakes were made' a mistake?

Updated 12:30 PM ET, Wed January 15, 2014
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When embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said "mistakes were clearly made" in addressing suggestions top aides orchestrated a politically motivated traffic fiasco last year he echoed the words of problem-plagued politicos of scandals past. The phrase, "Mistakes were made" creates the veneer of appearing contrite while carefully avoiding full blame. Mel Evans/AP
President Ulysses S. Grant was perhaps the first to make use of the creative non-apology- apology when he acknowledged numerous scandals in his administration. "Mistakes have been made, as all can see," Grant said in a State of the Union address. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
President Richard Nixon used the phrase liberally after leaving the White House when talking about Watergate. His chief spokesman, Ron Ziegler, also used the phrase in an apology of sorts to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for negative comments about them from the White House. Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images
President Ronald Reagan said "mistakes were made" over the Iran-Contra scandal that rocked his second-term administration. The phrase also was used by Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush, in discussing the scandal. Bush succeeded Reagan in the White House. Diana Walker/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Barely one day into his second term, President Bill Clinton acknowledged that "mistakes were made" by his administration in inviting a banking regulator to policy meetings where high-profile bankers and a top fundraiser were present. Cynthia Johnson/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who served under President George W. Bush, admitted that "mistakes were made" in the politically motivated firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Stephanie Kuykendal/Bloomberg News/Getty Images
JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon used the well-worn "mistakes were made" phrase in describing the hefty bonuses banking executives received after their companies netted taxpayer-funded bailouts. Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images
Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller wrote a USA Today op-ed piece last year on the controversy over IRS targeting conservative political groups. "Mistakes were made, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan motivation," he said. Win McNamee/Getty Images