Terrence Howard Admits To Hitting Women ... With an Asterisk

9/15/2015 8:36 AM PDT

Terrence Howard is fessing up to wife-beating allegations that cost him two of his marriages ... sort of.

Howard makes the admissions in Rolling Stone, saying in both instances he was provoked, kinda playing the victim card.  

Howard was arrested in 2001 for hitting his first wife. He says, "She was talking to me real strong, and I lost my mind and slapped her in front of the kids. Her lawyer said it was a closed fist, but even slapping her was wrong." 

As for his second marriage to Michelle Ghent, Howard explains, "She was trying to Mace me and you can't see anything so all you can do is try to bat somebody away, and I think that something caught her. But I wasn't trying to hit her."

Howard also deflects a 2005 incident at a restaurant where a woman claimed he hit her, but he says it was self-defense. 

He lays a lot on the table.