In a CNN interview that aired Monday, disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling sat down with Anderson Cooper to apologize for his racist remarks that were made public in a leaked audiotape.
That was the intention, anyway. At various points during his Anderson Cooper 360°interview, the 80-year-old billionaire slammed Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and even accused Cooper of being a racist.
Donald, who was fined $2.5 million and has been banned for life from the NBA, chastised Johnson for his 1991 HIV diagnosis. “I think [Johnson] should be ashamed of himself,” Donald told Cooper. “I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything.”
“He’s got AIDS,” Donald said. “What has he done, big Magic Johnson? What has he done?”
“He acts so holy. He made love to every girl in every city in America, and he had AIDS, and when he had those AIDS, I went to my synagogue and I prayed for him, I hope he could live and be well,” Donald said. “I didn’t criticize him. I could have. Is he an example for children?” Cooper corrected the octogenarian, explaining that Johnson is indeed HIV-positive but does not have “full-blown AIDS.”
The TV journalist pointed out that Johnson has done social outreach through his Magic Johnson Foundation. Additionally, the retired basketball player also owns a chain of movie theaters—among other business ventures—and his net worth is reportedly hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Because he has money, he’s able to treat himself,” Donald said. “But Magic Johnson is irrelevant in this thing. He didn’t do anything harmful to anybody and I respect him and I admire everything that he does. I’d like to help even more if he would offer me an opportunity to help. I like to help minorities.”
“I spend millions on giving away and helping minorities. Does he do that? That’s one problem I have: Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people. And some of the African Americans—maybe I’ll get in trouble again—they don’t want to help anybody. What has Magic Johnson really done for Children’s Hospital?” he asked. “What has he done for any hospital? What has he done for any group?” “If I said anything wrong, I’m sorry,” the former basketball team owner added. “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.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Cooper mentioned that Clippers exec Elgin Baylor had previously said Donald has a “plantation mentality.” Donald then accused the journalist of being a racist, saying, “I think you have more of a plantation mentality than I do, and I think you’re more of a racist than I am.”
Following the interview, NBA commissioner Adam Silver responded to Donald’s controversial comments. “I just read a transcript of Donald Sterling’s interview with Anderson Cooper and while Magic Johnson doesn’t need me to, I feel compelled on behalf of the NBA family to apologize to him that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack,” Silver told E! News in a statement. “The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible.”
Johnson tweeted about the interview, too, writing, “After this week, no more Donald talk. Just the NBA Playoffs, my @Dodgers and my @LA_Sparks!” Johnson, whose name was mentioned in the leaked recordings that started it all, will formally address Sterling’s attacks on Anderson Cooper 360° Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Donald’s estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, watched the interview withToday‘s Savannah Guthrie. “Do you think there’s something wrong with his mental faculties or do you think there’s something wrong with the sentiments in his heart?” the co-anchor asked in a segment that aired Tuesday on NBC. Shelly replied, “I really think, personally, he has dementia.” Guthrie questioned that theory, saying, “Dementia might make you delusional or say things that don’t make sense. It doesn’t necessarily make you say racist things.” Shelly—who is fighting to retain her ownership of the Clippers—then admitted, “I really don’t know much about dementia. I wish I did.”
Shelly also addressed his comments regarding Johnson. “Why would he bring Magic Johnson into the issue of what’s happening now? That’s where I felt pity, because he couldn’t get all of the dots together,” she told Guthrie. “He couldn’t connect the dots.”
(E! and Today are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)