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Christie Joins Long List Of Past American Figures To Use Most Famous Non-Apology Apology

"Clearly, mistakes were made."

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When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used the phrase "clearly, mistakes were made" to make his non-apology apology for the closing down of access lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge by top aides as part of a political vendetta, he joined the ranks of some of the United States' most elite politicians.

The famous phrase is used so often by scandal-plagued presidents and administrations that William Safire, who has written and added to his book Safire's Political Dictionary for more than four decades, devoted an entire section to it.

How Safire describes the phrase:

mistakes were made: A passive-evasive way of acknowledging error while distancing the speaker from responsibility for it.

Here's a brief history of the company Christie now keeps.


“Mistakes were made here by people who either did it deliberately or inadvertently.” —Bill Clinton, apologizing for having a meeting with bankers in the presence of a Democratic fundraiser

"Obviously, some mistakes were made. Certainly I regret that my own mistakes contributed to this controversy." —John Sununu, chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, discussing a travel controversy

"Mistakes were made." —President George W. Bush, on the firing of U.S. attorneys

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BONUS: "I acknowledge that mistakes were made here." —Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, on the firing of U.S. attorneys

Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Andrew Kaczynski at

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