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. tcaros

    When Sandusky goes to jail I hope they have some horseplay with him.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ARMYofONE

      Innocent until proven guilty, what ever happened to that??

      November 15, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • zeke

      @aRMYOFONE, He spoke up, now it's free game.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe blow

      Adult eye witnesses, many of them, and testimony of more than eight boys. Innocent? Penn State fan I take it.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snoot

      He likes 'em young. Well, there's plenty 'o youngins' in the joint, ready, willing and eager to oblige. And for what it's worth, Army has a valid point.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rob Stumpf

    Because how dare this person make any effort to defend himself.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously?

      If you're the alleged perpetrator of a simple 'he-said-she-said' incident, then sure, go to the press and make your case. If the allegations against you involve the police asking the public if there are other victims to step forward, then not sure how that whole 'defending yourself' business is gonna work for you.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. thompson

    Inquiring minds want to know. Don't get nervous about the question.

    Is it possible that Joe Paterno is a pedophile too?

    November 15, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcaros

      I've wondered that myself. Alot of these rich folks are part of satanic cults or freemasonry where pedophiles often come from.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • SciGuy

      Certainly it is possible. We are all fallen human beings subject to falling prey to Satan's devices. But why even raise the question; it is just as possible that you are. But I won't raise that one.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • zeke

      No, don't think so, but in 1998 the Penn State Campus Police investigated Sandusky. After that Joe told Sandusky he would never be the Coach at Penn State, then he abruptly quiit/retired, ya right. But I do think that Paterno knew in 1998 that Sandusky was a ped.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TheDude

    Is Sandusky aware of how well child molesters fare in prison? Maybe he should do some research and then think long and hard about how far he really wants to carry that weak "not guilty" plea.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Prediction

      I bet the suddenly 'gets it' and goes all Vince Foster before trial

      November 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tcaros

    Some bobo at CNN keeps deleting posts. I guess the troll has nothing better to do than hamper free speech. Trolll!

    November 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tcaros

    The Nashville Predators hockey team just made Sandusky their mascot.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snoot

      Gotta love gallows humor.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michael jackson

    whats the big deal over this?

    November 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. s kel

    Just .........spit on him for a start..........than get a carving knife........go to work on him!

    November 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snoot

      Oh! – don't stop there. Tell us more.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Banoychamay

    I'll put him in my closet for the next 20 years visiting him twice daily for very special treatment. Very special.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danyak

      Go eat a gun, caveman.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snoot

      You seem rational.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Armchair lawyer

    The benefit to having Sundusky make those "stupid" self-incrimminating statements in the Costas interview is for the defense to intentionally approve of biased jurors who will surely return a guilty verdict and file for a mistrial due to impartiality and hide behind the double jeopardy law.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. s kel

    No funny mike jackson ....not funny at all......even as a joke ,people still get killed.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SciGuy

    I find the presumption of guilt and the desire for disgusting things to happen to Sandusky indicative of a society far removed from the principles upon which this nation was founded and largely devoid of the knowledge of God.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • zeke

      It's called the INTERNET, get with it. People hide behind it everyday.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Drinker

    Wouldn't exposing your naked body to under age boys be illegal???? Pretty sure that is a crime.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • SciGuy

      Doesn't this happen routinely in public showers around the world?

      November 15, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • LAborn

      SciGuy, we are talking about a 10 year old boy.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not necesarily

      Nudist colonies are not illegal. The law is concerned about 'indecent purposes' and physical contact.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • tnvol

      I don't know if it's illegal, but it sure is in poor taste.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LAborn

    I don't call me pal. I am no pal of someone who would defend this monster.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • SciGuy

      Your two statements, taken literally, imply that you "defend this monster."

      November 15, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tara

    As a teacher, he doesn't need to be proven innocent for me. He already admitted his guilt. If even what he says IS true, what he is admitting to is nothing short of pedophilia. He crossed that line. There is no excuse for what he is even ADMITTING TO. As educators, we know very well that that type of exchange is unacceptable and weird.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • SciGuy

      He shouldn't need to be proven innocent for anyone. We assume innocent until and unless proven guilty. Now the affidavit sounds quite damning; nevertheless, in this land we still presume innocent until proven guilty in court of law. At least the civilized among us do, which apparently excludes most bloggers on CNN.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
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