WATCH ABOVE: V. Stiviano, the woman at the center of the firestorm surrounding embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling defends Sterling and claims he’s not a racist.
The woman at the centre of the controversy involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling spoke with ABC’s Barbara Walters on Friday about the racist audio recording leaked last week.
During the interview Walters asks V. Stiviano if she believes Sterling is a racist, she replies: “No, I don’t believe it in my heart.” She later argued that “Mr. Sterling’s from a different generation” adding he was taught to believe in things like segregation.
It was Stiviano’s first public appearance since Sterling was given a lifetime ban by the NBA and fined $2.5 million over a recording, which captures Sterling instructing Stiviano not to post photos of herself with black people or bring black friends to Clippers games.
She said Sterling should apologize but added “only god knows” if he will.
Stiviano told Walters Sterling is “hurting right now” from the fallout of his comments and said “I think he can’t even believe or understand sometimes the things he says.”
When Walters asked Stiviano to describe her relationship with Sterling, she replied “everything — his confidant, his best friend, his silly rabbit.” Asked if she was in love with Sterling she said “No, I’m not in love… I love him like a father figure.”
Stiviano claims to be Sterling’s “personal assistant” saying “he first started paying me as an employee and then he started paying me off the books.”
Walters said Sterling chose not to be interviewed after going “back and forth and back and forth” on the decision.
Stiviano was born Maria Vanessa Perez in October 1982 in Los Angeles before successfully petitioning to change her name to V. Stiviano in 2010.
The 31-year-old Los Angeles resident has been a key figure in the scandal involving the Clippers owner after recordings were released on TMZ and Deadspin.
According to a lawsuit filed by Sterling’s wife, Rochelle, Stiviano met the 80-year-old Sterling at the 2010 Super Bowl.
Stiviano was sued by Rochelle Sterling in March, claiming she was given more than $2.5 million in expensive gifts from the Clippers owner that needed to be returned including a $1.8 million duplex Stiviano purchased.
In the lawsuit, Stiviano is accused of engaging “in conduct designed to target, befriend, seduce, and then entice, cajole, borrow from, cheat and/or receive as gifts transfers of wealth from wealthy older men whom she targets for such purpose.”
In her defence Stiviano’s attorney has filed for the lawsuit to be dismissed and denies any wrongdoing on her behalf.Follow @AndyRuzzell
*With files from the Associated Press
© Shaw Media, 2014