When Chris Brown told Larry King that he didn’t remember brutally beating Rihanna, the man who went out and partied wearing a $300,000 necklace saying “oops” (left) shortly after the beating raised a lot of eyebrows. As Gossip Cop points out, Brown recently acknowledged his responsibility to People: “‘I was distraught . . . I went to my mom on the same night and told [her] what happened and broke down.’ Let’s recap: He told his mom, also a victim of domestic violence, exactly what he did to Rihanna.”
Though Brown has since claimed to be the victim of unfair editing, that he would ever try the “don’t recall” tack is highly suspicious, and reeks of an unwillingness to take responsibility. It does, however, put him in a long lineage of American politicians, who use the legally shrewd but morally dubious strategy whenever they want to duck out of a screw-up without setting themselves up for perjury charges further down the road.
Politicians of all stripes tend to be slippery. But given the preponderance of conservatives who’ve used this particular tactic, we have to wonder: is Chris Brown, who criticized the Republican National Convention for its lack of diversity, a closet Republican?
1. Senator Larry Craig
Larry Craig, of course, is the Republican senator from Idaho who was arrested by an undercover officer for allegedly soliciting gay sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. When Matt Lauer asked him whether his feet brushed the officer’s, he answered “I don’t know — it was possible. But I don’t recall that.” But give Craig credit: even when police interrogated him right after the incident, he said “I don’t recall” to four different questions.
2. Ronald Reagan
Reagan arguably perfected the “I don’t recall” defense during the Iran-Contra hearings, when he brushed off seemingly every big question about his involvement by saying he didn’t remember the details. As The New York Times records,
”I have to point out that this continued saying of ‘I don’t recall,’ that so many meetings – and I have been told by statisticians that my average of meeting with people was about 80 a day for eight years – that I don’t recall these meetings,” Mr. Reagan said. ”And not because they weren’t important, and I am sure that I dealt with things at the time, but I just – I just don’t recall such a meeting, and certainly not by being able to say on what day it occurred.”
Which is to say: important, busy presidents are too busy to remember if they authorized funneling $30 million to right-wing guerillas via Iran.
3. Bill Clinton
When Clinton was questioned about Paula Jones, his testimony was peppered with “I don’t recalls,” and when he was questioned about Monica Lewinsky, he fired off another “I don’t recall” in response to the question “At any time were you and Monica Lewinsky alone together in the Oval Office?” In fact, for the rest of his grand jury testimony about her he was remarkably firm that he hadn’t had any untoward contact with her — which is what allowed Ken Starr to go after him for perjury. Maybe those waffling answers serve a purpose after all.
4. John McCain
The New York Times story on John McCain’s own untoward contact with lobbyist Vicki Iseman could have been the speed bump that set his presidential bid careening over the edge — but thanks to an overreliance on unsourced quotes, the Times was forced to apologize and correct the article. Still, in light of the evidence, it seemed fishy when McCain was asked during a 2002 ethics deposition if he had ever flown on a corporate jet with Iseman and he said he couldn’t recall.
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