Jealousy, not racism, fueled Donald Sterling’s rants to assistant V. Stiviano about black people, the banished Los Angeles Clippers owner told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview that aired Monday.
During the exclusive interview, Sterling also criticized Magic Johnson, blaming the basketball great for his delayed apology to the controversy, and chastising Johnson for his 1991 HIV diagnosis.
“I think [Johnson] should be ashamed of himself,” Sterling told Cooper. “I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn't do anything.”
The interview was meant to be a mea culpa, marking Sterling’s first lengthy statements since racist recordings emerged last month and earned him a lifetime NBA ban. But when the subject turned to Johnson, who was mentioned in the recordings, Sterling turned contentious.
"He's got AIDS," Sterling 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. I didn't criticize him. I could have. Is he an example for children?"
Cooper corrected Sterling, explaining that Johnson was HIV-positive but did not have "full-blown AIDS."
Sterling briefly adjusted his language but not his tone.
"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 said. "I think he should be ashamed of himself."
Sterling said Johnson told him to stay quiet after the scandal broke. “Wait, be patient, I’ll help you. We’ll work it out,” Sterling said in the interview.
Johnson – who’s credited for social outreach through the Magic Johnson Foundation, as well as a chain of movie theaters in urban communities – is scheduled to appear on “Anderson Cooper 360” today. As Sterling’s new comments emerged, Johnson wrote on Twitter that he’d rather focus on basketball.
“After this week, no more Sterling talk. Just the NBA Playoffs,” he wrote.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended Johnson in a statement.
"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 said in the statement.
“The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who said he has yet to watch the interview, also expressed support for Johnson.
"Obviously I know who Magic is," Rivers said. "I'll stand by Magic every day of the year because I've known him for a long time. Having said that, I don't know what's going on out there. I tried not to get involved in that part of it right now. Whatever it is, that doesn't sound like much of an apology to me."
That process has been ongoing since April 29, when Silver announced Sterling’s lifetime ban from the league. Recordings featuring Sterling emerged online days earlier, featuring the owner’s conversations with Stiviano.
Sterling, 80, says he didn’t know he was being recorded, and that he was simply trying to woo Stiviano, 31. “I thought she liked me,” he said. “Maybe I was just fooling myself for two years.”
In a May 2 interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, Stiviano said she doesn’t believe that Sterling is a racist, but that it was important for him to apologize.
"I think he’s highly more traumatized and hurt by the things that he said himself,” she added. “I think he can’t even believe or understand sometimes the thing he says, and I think he’s hurt by it. He’s hurting right now."
Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, also spoke exclusively with Walters, saying that she’s considered divorcing her billionaire husband. She will also fight to keep her stake in the team, despite the NBA’s rules.
"I was shocked by what he said. And -- well, I guess whatever their decision is -- we have to live with it," she said. "But I don't know why I should be punished for what his actions were."
The scandal broke as the team battled first-round opponent Golden State, drawing additional focus, attention and distraction to the series. Despite the lifetime ban, Sterling told Cooper that he still feels connected to the Clippers’ players, who are facing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
“The players don’t hate me, the sponsors don’t hate me, the fans don’t hate me, the media hates me,” Sterling said.
While Sterling hoped to gain sympathy, or at least understanding , through his sit-down with Cooper, the interview attracted additional criticism.
To Donald Sterling: As a member of humanity please don't talk anymore.— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) May 13, 2014
I believe Donald Sterling was baited into making those comments because one time my wife said "Hello" to me & I said the N word 15 times.— rob delaney (@robdelaney) May 13, 2014
Donald Sterling (pictorial representation) pic.twitter.com/H4Si2sVlxI— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) May 13, 2014
The Associated Press contributed to this report.