President Ulysses S. Grant gets the credit — or blame? — for helping make "mistakes were made" a phrase that politicians can't seem to avoid using. Spencer Arnold/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Spencer Arnold/Getty Images The Two-Way It's True: 'Mistakes Were Made' Is The King Of Non-Apologies May 14, 2013 As the head of the IRS turns to this classic "past exonerative," we look at the history of an oft-used phrase. It came up in the Nixon era, again during the Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and now in the Obama years. It goes back much further, though.