Watching Chris Brown "confess" on Larry King is an instructional video for all woud-be TV confessionals.


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, September 3, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

How to Confess on TV

Chris Brown, whose reputation as a "kid friendly" R&B star was severely challenged when he seriously beat his girlfriend, music star Rihanna, was interviewed by Larry King on CNN last night.

Brown followed these key rules for self-excusing confessions.

Avoid details. The image of Brown pounding Rihanna with his fists and choking her are so horrible that Brown never described the beating he delivered his girlfriend. When Larry reviewed some of the details, Brown stared at the table. Most impressive of all, Brown claimed he couldn't recall the beating.

Minimize. Although police reported previous beatings he had administered Rihanna, Brown said there were none.

Excuse. Brown referred (as before) to his and Rihanna's youth, and described how people get angry in relationships but that he and Rihanna had never been taught ways to resolve conflict. (Brown was sitting next to his mom, who I guess he was accusing of not teaching him not to beat women.)

Share the blame. As in the above, make yourself part of a group - youthful men not taught better ways of coping - and gently blame your girlfriend as well.

Addictionize. By "addictionize," I mean claim that you weren't in your right mind or able to control yourself - Brown went so far as to say he blacked out.

Love, love, love. Always remember - refer to your loved ones. In this case the love object was also the victim, but Brown said he loves Rihanna and could conceivably spend his life with her.

All such confessions are matters of trying to deflect attention while putting yourself under the spotlight - kind of like doing a soft shoe without raising your feet from the floor. My reaction is, "Why bother?" But it has worked for many media and political figures before. Brown just has to perfect his technique.

Great moments in cofessional history. O.J. Simpson's confessional letter remains the all-tme classic, in which he heaped abuse and accusations on the woman he had recently killed, blaming her for being murdered.

Memorial: Pat O'Brien ranks among all-time TV confession crash and burns. O'Brien had a long career as a sportscaster and entertainment show host. After a series of drunken graphically sexual phone messages he made to a co-worker became public, O'Brien immediately entered rehab. He then made the rounds doing a series of humble, and humbling, confessionals - most notably with Oprah-based therapist Phil McGraw. The morning after his McGraw confessional, O'Brien was reinstated as host of The Insider.

But O'Brien was to be removed - then reinstated - several times from his slot on this entertainment news program. The coup de grace for his career was when a snarky e-mail O'Brien sent around about one of his interim replacements, Lara Spencer, surfaced, thus undercutting his humble-pie apologies.