Image Credit: ABC
Jennifer Armstrong
May 26, 2010 AT 12:41 PM EDT

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Jesse James finally spoke publicly about being, as he said, “the most hated man in the world” for cheating on “America’s sweetheart” Sandra Bullock in an interview with Nightline‘s Vicki Mabrey. In the exhaustingly inevitable end to the past year’s second-most-shocking cheating scandal, he took responsibility for his actions (“I took a perfect marriage and a perfect wife and the perfect life and stepmother and threw it away because of my actions”). But he also claimed it was a lack of self-esteem, brought on by a childhood of abuse, that led to his eventual betrayal of Bullock that marred her post-Oscar glow. “I grew up with a huge amount of shame and fear and abandonment on my shoulders from a very young age and I think…the way my mind rationalized [cheating on Bullock], ‘Well, you know, I might as well do whatever I can to like run her off cause she is going to find out what I am anyway and leave me anyway,'” he told Mabrey. He broke down, in particular, when noting that his own daughter is now the age he was when his father broke his arm. What he learned in rehab, which he checked into after news of the scandal broke, was simple, he said, and he repeated it often: “I think I do things to sabotage my life.”

He slogged through his childhood abuse admission (which his father denied to ABC News), and then onto his own denial that he was a Nazi sympathizer (allegations that came about after a photograph surfaced of him giving a Nazi salute): “The truth about it, it was a joke that was probably pretty funny at my house with a bunch of friends, but it was not funny.” (He also added that he felt it was the context of the scandal that made the photo seem far worse than it was intended: “People were out for blood, and that gave it to them.”) So many uncomfortable revelations, and for what — besides, of course, trying to clear his name on the Nazi thing — I’m not sure.

It seemed like the official, sad end to this very sad, very public saga. We all, perhaps, felt a little better about it when the ending looked like the People magazine cover, with Bullock holding the baby the couple secretly adopted together just before the split, whom she’ll now be raising on her own. That felt like the Sandra Bullock movie ending — plucky now-single mom survives heartache, makes good. Hers was a tale of triumph over adversity; his side is just the story of a complicated man making mistakes that hurt lots of people, the kind of story that happens much more often in real life, behind closed doors, than the Sandra Bullock kind of story. I honestly hope we’re done with our part in this saga now, and that these two can hash the rest of it out in private. I believed him when he said “none of [our relationship] was bulls—. It was real.” And I believed him when he said that he did it out of “self-sabotage,” as self-helpy as that sounds — not because he was bored while Bullock was off being successful, or because he was unhappy with her. Time to put any talk of a Best Actress Oscar curse — and of Bombshell McGee, and of this simple, all-too-common struggle between two real people — behind us for good.

More Jesse James:

Jesse James: The most hated man in America

Jesse James issues apology to Sandra Bullock and children

Sandra Bullock’s marriage woes: The end of the fairy tale?

Sandra Bullock files for divorce, adopts son

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