Embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the interview everyone wanted – and only Anderson Cooper got – at least, so far.
Following his candid conversation with Sterling over the weekend, which aired Monday night on CNN’s “AC360,” the veteran newsman sat down with Access Hollywood to talk about his big get – and how it all came together.
As it turns out, Anderson didn’t have much time to prepare.
“The interview was at Mr. Sterling’s house on Sunday, around midday,” Anderson explained to Access. “I got the call Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t even sure it would actually take place until we actually sat down on the seat and I started asking him questions.”
Sterling – who came under fire following the release of the now infamous audio recording between himself and V. Stiviano, in which the NBA owner made several racist remarks – opted to do the interview without any legal or PR representation, with Anderson explaining he was only accompanied by “two of his friends – a man and a woman.”
As for the recording, Sterling claims he was “baited” by Stiviano into making the controversial remarks.
“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,” Sterling said. “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.”
However, in an interview with ABC News earlier this month, Stiviano claimed it was a conversation similar to other previous talks she’s had with Sterling in the past about race.
Sterling also insisted he was not a racist and offered a public apology.
“I’m not a racist,” he told Anderson. “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.”
So does Anderson think the apology will resonate with the public?
“Whether or not people believe that apology, that’s up to viewers to decide. Some people no doubt believe he deserves a second chance, they’ll feel sympathetic toward him and others will say… he’s sad he got caught… you know, they won’t believe his apology. But I, you know as an interviewer, I leave it up to viewers to decide and try not to kind of inject myself into an interview like that,” Anderson told Access.
And as for statements made by Sterling’s wife, Shelley, during her own new interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, where she claims her estranged husband is in the “onset of dementia,” Anderson said, although he could not say for certain, he certainly did not see any signs of illness present during his interview with Donald Sterling.
“You know to see signs of early onset dementia, you really need to know a person very well. I certainly don’t know Donald Sterling well enough, but I certainly saw no indications that would have made me think that he should not be on television [or] I should not do an interview with him,” Anderson said. “I think he’s very much in control and thought a lot about what he wanted to say and I wanted to provide him an opportunity to say it.”
-- Eric Anderson