When the Donald Sterling story first broke, Rush Limbaugh predicted that one of the key defenses for the 81-year-old NBA owner would be dementia. Flash-forward two weeks: In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters Sunday, Shelly Sterling argued that she believed her estranged husband was suffering from the "onset of dementia." The following day in an interview with CNN, Donald Sterling seemed to confirm her suspicions, acting at points as if he did not remember the conversation with Stiviano and claiming he must have been "baited" into it.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters (below), Sterling’s estranged wife Shelly Sterling—who plans to “absolutely” fight to maintain part ownership of the Clippers—said that her husband had never made racist remarks like that before and that his reaction to the event had convinced her that he was suffering from the early stages of dementia:
Shelly Sterling said today she doesn't think Donald Sterling is a racist, but she believes her estranged husband is in the "onset of dementia."
"I -- in my opinion, I think he -- it's the onset of dementia," Shelly Sterling told ABC News' Barbara Walters today in an exclusive interview.
Sterling told Walters her husband said, "I don't remember saying that. I don't remember ever saying those things," after hearing the audiotape of him telling V. Stiviano not to promote her relationship with black people and not to bring them to Los Angeles Clippers games.
"I said, 'Well, this is the tape.' And he says, 'Hmm. I don't remember it,'" she added. "That's when I thought he had dementia."
She said she never heard him say derogatory things toward black or Hispanic people before she heard the tape, but she did not blame the incident on dementia.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper released the following day (below), Donald Sterling hinted at a similar defense, claiming that he was "baited" into the conversation, and expressing surprise at hearing the recording, as if he did not remember it taking place:
"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 told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an exclusive interview set to air on Monday.
"You're saying you were set up?" Cooper asked.
"Well yes, I was baited," Sterling said. "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."
Two weeks before the two interviews, on the Monday following TMZ’s release of the taped recording of Sterling’s private conversation with his girlfriend, Limbaugh lampooned the left’s “mock shock” at “learning” that Sterling—a long-time Democrat donor—was racist, calling “all of this shock and outrage... as phony as you can believe.”
After highlighting Sterling’s long-known sketchy slum-lord dealings and his connection to the NAACP, Limbaugh predicted that Sterling would eventually be portrayed in a sympathetic light through claims that his actions were the result of dementia:
Well, look, you let nature take its course. What is he, 81 or 88 years old? One of the defenses is gonna be that he's demented, he's suffering dementia, asking for this stuff to be recorded. You wait. Suffering dementia, doesn't know what he's saying. He may end up trying to make himself out to be a sympathetic figure before it's all said and done.
The great Maha-Rushi does it again.
Shelly Sterling interview (via ABC News):
Donald Sterling interview (via CNN):