Jesse James Tries, Fails, To Get America's Forgiveness

Last night on Nightline, a stiff, oddly surfer-esque Jesse James broke his silence to talk about why he cheated, his father abusing him as a child, and what was really behind that Nazi photo.

James was interviewed by ABC News' Vicky Mabrey, who was rather tough on him by TV interview standards. Anna told me that Mabrey seemed "like a stand-in for Sandra or any other wronged woman" — and she didn't shy away from asking him about the Nazi salute photo and his views on race.

For the record, James doesn't "have a racist bone" in his body, and he also doesn't care what color his adopted son is. James spoke about his cheating in semi-rehearsed, often distant-seeming ways, while also using the language of personal responsibility.

The interview didn't dwell much on the details of the affairs — when Mabrey asked if all five women who have come forward were telling the truth, he declined to go into detail, said you shouldn't believe everything you read, and then uttered the unfortunate, "It could have been a million."


He said more than once that Sandra Bullock is "perfect" — a perfect wife, stepmother, and so on. He said he still loves her but that divorce, by her choice, is inevitable. The loving times before, that Oscar and other awards footage of her saying that her career got better and her self worth got better because of their love, he said that was all real for him too. "None of it was full of shit," he said. "It was all real." He said he knows he ruined it: "I was doing it because I never felt good enough for anyone."

He said that his father had beaten him as a child, including breaking his arm, and wept when he recalled that his daughter is now the same age as he was when that happened to him, and what kind of pain Jesse's actions have put her through.

His father officially denied the abuse charges to ABC. But Jesse James said it had shaped him. "All that stuff is a huge smokescreen so people won't see that I'm a scared abused kid," he said both of his fame and of his transgressions. Mabrey reminded him firmly that plenty of people survive abuse without doing what he did. But he said plenty of other people did worse.

Is that enough for America to stop hating him? Well, it's probably not enough for Bullock, not now. And after all this, tears and all, it's hard to know what else anyone would want from this person now anyway except for him to just go away.

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I admit I felt a weird need to understand why he did this, mostly because their marriage was relatable for me in a way. After seeing this, I think he is different from Tiger Woods (who I think is a narcissist who felt entitled to get off whenever he wanted) and instead is a self-saboteur who deep down never believed he was good enough for Sandra Bullock. He has a dark past filled with porn, drugs and hookers, and here he is married to a beautiful, successful, upstanding woman. He can't help but look at her and see his own shortcomings and is just braced for the day that she figures out "who he really is" and dumps him. So he figures he'll beat her to the punch and give her a reason.

I know it's not rational, but I think a lot of people do this when they feel like they're out of their league. You see this played out a lot in relationships, including one of my own.