“Mistakes have been made”

Yes, I actually heard Rebekah Brooks use that wonderful passive-voice, nobody-was-actually-responsible phrase a few minutes ago in her testimony before the committee investigating the News International phone-hacking scandal.

Although I’m sure the phrase, or variations of it, were used earlier, Richard Nixon’s press secretary Ron Ziegler famously said in 1973 during the Watergate scandal, “I would apologize to the [Washington] Post, and I would apologize to Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein. … We would all have to say that mistakes were made in terms of comments. I was overenthusiastic in my comments about the Post, particularly if you look at them in the context of developments that have taken place,”

In 1986 during the Iran-Contra scandal, President Reagan said, “While we’re still seeking all the facts, it’s obvious that the execution of these policies was flawed and mistakes were made.”

Around that time, Matt Groening, who went on to create “The Simpsons,” was drawing a weekly cartoon called “Life in Hell.” I still remember this one:

Update: When I referred to the phrase “mistakes have been made” as past-tense, I meant passive voice. Thanks to the commenters who pointed this out.