Past exonerative

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The "past exonerative" tense is a witticism coined by William Schneider of the New York Times to describe the rhetorical tactic of speaking in the passive voice in order to distance oneself from blame.[1] The tactic is most famous for being invoked by politicians.

The classic example of this usage was U.S. president Ronald Reagan's statement "...mistakes were made...", first made in a December 6, 1986, address to the nation,[2] and then again in his January 1987 State of the Union Address[3] to describe the actions of officials in his administration regarding Iran – obviously, but not explicitly, referring to the Iran–Contra affair, where his administration sold arms to Iran to fund the contras in Nicaragua.

Other examples: U.S. president Clinton, regarding campaign financing abuses, January 1997, SFGate

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