November 15th, 2011
12:15 PM ET

Jerry Sandusky's interview confuses, infuriates critics

It's being called Jerry Sandusky’s "Hail Mary."

When the former Penn State assistant coach told NBC Monday night that he is innocent of charges of sexually abusing boys for at least 15 years, many people on social media and in opinion columns took the position that it was indeed the equivalent of a last-ditch, go-for-broke attempt to win a football game with a long pass into the end zone.

It was a move that many seem to think missed by a mile – and in some cases may have made matters worse for the man at the center of a scandal that has rocked Penn State and all of college sports.

In a telephone interview with NBC's "Rock Center With Brian Williams," Sandusky admitted that some details in the graphic 23-page grand jury report released earlier this month are correct.

"I could say I have done some of those things," he said. "I have horsed around with kids I have showered (with) after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact."

And not everyone is pleased with what transpired in Sandusky's interview with Bob Costas.

Dan Wetzel, writing for Yahoo, was scathing in his reaction to Sandusky’s explanation of what happened.

“The voice over the phone sounded as weak and pathetic as the explanations and excuses it was trying to spread,” his column began. “Want to hear from a monster? Well there was Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football assistant coach trying to defend himself to Bob Costas on Monday."

Wetzel wrote that he thought the interview gave an insight into the mind of Sandusky and his attorney, Joseph Amendola, who were hoping to sway how he was viewed in the court of public opinion before they headed to a court of law. After all, the child rape allegations have been plastered on every TV news channel, every newspaper and website worldwide. Perhaps it was an attempt to even out the scales of balance. But for Wetzel, the interview did anything but that.

“Sandusky’s denial and Amendola’s legal work may help in a court of law, where Sandusky, 67, maintains a presumption of innocence," he wrote. "It does nothing here in this opinion column, or, in the court of public opinion where his supposed lack of awareness of what is and isn’t appropriate will infuriate. There is neither an acceptable explanation nor an appropriate reason for an old man to shower with a young boy; let alone horse around, touch or wrestle with that boy in the shower.

"None.”

Many legal experts also questioned why Sandusky chose to speak out at all.

“Why would you put your client on national TV?” New York-based attorney Tom Harvey said to the New York Daily News. “You’d have to say it certainly deviates from the norm that you would let a criminal defendant talk about his alleged acts on national television. It’s hard to believe.”

SI.com: How Sandusky interview could hurt his defense, Penn State

Some experts, including CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, questioned why he would admit to any inappropriate conduct.

"It's such a classic fact pattern for him to admit that he showered with these children and horsed around and confessed to touching them," she said on CNN's "AC360." "In my mind, that's already misdemeanor child sex abuse. So I disagree when the attorney says nothing criminal happened here. That, in and of itself, is criminal ... I'm flabbergasted."

Veteran defense attorney Mark Geragos, who defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges, urged caution in the case.

"Is there anyone who gives a presumption of innocence at this point? No," Geragos said. "Before we go and we say this is a done deal ... and condemn them and everything else, I think maybe we step back and take a deep breath for a second."

Some critics seemed confused about the way Sandusky spoke about the allegations.

Mac Engel, writing for McClatchy Newspapers, argued that Sandusky's answers to pointed questions worked against him if he was trying to lessen the impact of what was alleged.

"Sandusky paints himself as a man who is caught up in one massive series of unfortunate miscommunications; that this whole nightmare is nothing more than what is now a growing list of people who incorrectly interpreted his behavior," he wrote. "Nothing in this approximately 10-minute interview is apt to change the public’s perception that Sandusky’s behavior is anything other than amoral, criminal and sick under any code in any society."

Engel wrote that he believed the interview may have heightened an already bright spotlight on Sandusky and his views of what is morally right and wrong.

"This is a man who lives in a world of grays on a subject that is strictly black and white. As a relatively new parent, I am certain of those colors," he wrote. "Sandusky told Costas that he 'hugged (young boys) and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact'

"That’s it. The end. Get him the hell away from kids. There is no 'Oops' in this area.”

TV viewers and media personalities who tuned in to the interview reacted similarly in a few instances.

ESPN columnist and television analyst Jemele Hill tweeted that the interview reminded her of an interview with R. Kelly about allegations of his obsession with sleeping with underage girls. The R&B singer was acquitted of child pornography charges related to the allegations.

Hill tweeted: "Jerry Sandusky's bizarre answer about young boys, reminded me of when @Toure asked R Kelly abt young girls http://youtu.be/FKfh7Jp4lds."

Many others retweeted that link, which had a clip of the interview, saying they felt a similar vibe from how the two answered questions about sexual allegations.

But much more of the immediate reaction and focus seemed to be a decision to stop listening to what Sandusky had to say.

About midway through the interview a flurry of tweets indicated users had had enough and were switching channels to watch Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was giving her first extended interview on ABC’s “20/20” since being shot in Arizona in January.  (Watch Giffords speak)

The Detroit Free Press devoted a separate story to that angle, writing  that many users "noted that the intersection of the two interviews displayed what could be perceived as the best and worst elements of humanity."

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Filed under: Crime • Football • Jerry Sandusky • Penn State • Sports
soundoff (374 Responses)
  1. BOMBO

    CNN is borrowing lines from Futurama now.

    "This concept of 'wuv' confuses and infuriates us!" Lrrrr, from the Valentines Day episode.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NYC1972

    the michael jackson defense is just not going to work, sicko

    November 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. howard

    The interview offended me

    November 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • What?

      Click "No Value" oops this isn't msnbc.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jimbo0117

    No normal grown man takes showers with children. Sorry Jerry, but you sir are a pedophile.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • stuart

      I took showers with my father many times

      November 16, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. Spudlabs

    Bob Costas gave the best Journalistic interview I've seen in 20 years. He asked hard questions, but did so with a neutral demeanor which was able to draw this jerk out. He never raised his voice, never accused him of anything, let him finish what sentences without interrupting him and was as professional as Walter Cronkite, the last true journalist this Country had. You tabloidists could learn a thing or two from this journalist.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnRJ08

      Costas isn't just a sports journalist. He is a very bright guy. He knew that the more he got Sandusky to talk, the more likely it would be that he would make some admissions. So Costas moderated his tone and never made Sandusky feel like he was being interrogated, which is a great interrogation technique.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GODZILLA1

    Anyone associated with Penn State football will not be prosecuted in Pennsylvania; the prosecutors know what happened to one of their own a few years back. Sandusky will walk, no doubt about it. The judges probably chant 'WE ARE PENN STATE" before they walk into court.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • muhrvis

      No, he won't walk at this point, although it is true that the authorities there and people around him enabled him for years. If they have the evidence, he is going down and so are a lot of other people. And it is high time.

      November 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jerry

    Wish Costas would have called him on his admission that he shouldn't have showered with little boys. WAIT A MINUTE, you said the same thing when you were caught in 1998! So what you are really admitting is that you CAN'T STOP what right-minded people see as a perversion.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. muhrvis

    This interview might be quite offensive, but actually I think he helped to hang himself by already making admissions about parts of his behavior. What a sicko and a dope. He goes on TV to try to defend himself against felony charges? In the end it might aid the prosecution.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bubba

    If you believe Sandusky's your in your own little sick world. Not one, but several victims have come forward to law enforcement. If Paterno (College legend), and the high ranked corrupt bureaucrats that were fired / some charged, doesn't raise a red flag, your oblivious to life. This is only the tip of an iceberg, wait till we go a little further down in the depths of taboo! It'll be interesting....

    November 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Locode

    GODZILLA1, they will be prosecuted, the question is if they will be found guilty or not. You may want to check a dictionary once in a while.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John

    It sounds like legal analysts were slamming (although that is just a riduclous word in itself) Sandusky, NOT the interview. Way to keep it sensationalized CNN!

    November 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bill

    I suspect this "horsing around" stuff permeates the locker rooms and showers at many of our kid's schools. I'm talking about middle schools and HS and whatever! This is the perfect pedo's paradise and it all goes by the jocks code of silence. Parents need to pick up on this and ask their kids if they have ever seen or heard of any of this stuff. This is a wake up call for us all...here we've been focussed on watching "ex-offenders" but all the while these nudie showers and stuff have been overlooked while we have been chasing the wrong rabbit!

    November 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kitkat

    Place your bets
    He will off himself b4 trial
    Or someone will do it 4 him

    November 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cindy

    Sandusky did this interview over the phone because he knows people could see he was lying if they saw his face. Too late Sandusky – people already KNOW you are a liar and a pedophile....put this sicko away for life! I still don't understand how he is out on bond. If that had been my kid he wouldn't make it as far as a trial.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Cindy...the reason he is out on bail is because the judge that released him on bail, volunteered for Second Mile. How the hell she didn't claim conflict of interest and remove herself only adds to the abuse of power that is involved throughout this investigation. I predict only more sickening information will be coming out the deeper they dig into this thing. She needs investigated and charged along with probably 20 other people. I also think this thing will reach farther than we can see now.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. YNOT

    Once again, no trial has been conducted. So this man is innocent until 'proven' guilty. And lets not loose sight of who is being accused. Taking Coach Paterno's name off of trophies and whatever else is just plain wrong. The media, once agian, has all ready held a trial, a conviction, and kicked the bee hive of public anger. I hate pedophiles with a passion. That should be death penalty no questions asked. My problem is the media and most of us are just sheep.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mickey

      Once again....the presumption of innocence is a legal term. I as an ordinary citizen have no such obligation UNLESS I'm sitting on a jury. I choose to believe Sandusky is guilty. How could anyone believe otherwise?

      November 15, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Sandusky, the guy actually molested boys, still has the legal presumption of innocence. Paterno, the guy who followed the law but we all wish had done more, has been effectively cashiered for the sake of PSU public relations. Making Paterno a surrogate our anger won't bring the victims comfort or justice.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
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