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. LAborn

    Marc C., thanks.

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

    Every boy who has come near Sandusky should be tested for AIDS and have their anus inspected for abuse.

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

    Did he try to rub Costa's leg?

    November 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Russ139

    The defense lawyer has to be thinking that Sandusky is a goner if it goes to trial. He also knows that nobody in the community wants these victims to have to appear and testify. Maybe a deal can be brokered. Meanwhile, Sandusky, who is delusional, thinks he can beat the rap. So the lawyer agrees to let him do the interview, knowing that it will nail the coffin shut. Then, Sandusky will realize he has to do the plea, will admit to everything, and maybe get less than a life sentence.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jeff Edgmon

    They should make showering with any child that is below the age of 18, who isn't your child, a felony, with a min of 5 yrs in prison.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • gremlinus

      So much for high school sports. The ages range there from 14-18 or 19. Sometimes even higher.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. FreshxWater

    To my knowledge the DA has NOT even issued a "DO NOT DESTROY" order on Penn State. They've had 7 days already to destroy records. INCREDIBLE, the 1% covering for the 1%.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      In 2009 the then DA (now Governor) turned the investigation of Sandusky over to A PA. State Police Officer....I'll betcha that officers investigations paperwork "sat on the desk" or " was lost" until The DA became Governor ....It's a common tactic here in PA ...The whole State is CORRUPT ....I've seen it all B4

      November 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Eric

    He is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Lets keeps this in mind. My educated guess is that he is guilty. This would most likely be proven with ease at trial. However, my prediction is that he will be sucking on the barrel of a .45 long before any trial begins.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • I also think when the reality of the situation hits him

      He will check out.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    I hope this guy is skinned alive. He's an absolute creep.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. joey

    jerrys favorite song is elton johns "dont let your son go down on me"

    November 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tuffy

    He's one coach who let's you blow his whistle!

    November 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Defense Tactics 101

    Jerry Sandusky is a confused, sick pervert, however, consider for a moment his defense lawyer’s strategy: 1) Amendola wants to cherry pick the jury so he lets Sandusky confess to what is already common knowledge, 2) during jury selection a juror who has already made up his mind about man-boy horsey games in the shower would be excused, and 3) the jury would become stacked in favor of Sandusky’s defense. Furthermore, witness and victim intimidation is at play in Amendola’s recent statements to the press by saying that he is talking to victims privately. Amendola is making it clear that every allegation will be contested with a difficult, public interrogation that may be extremely painful psychologically for the victim making it more difficult for that victim or more victims to come forward. These are typical tactics in a defense attorney’s bag-of-tricks.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jimbo

    AKA... The Michael Jackson Defense.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. olepi

    Has Rush come to the defense yet? This sounds right up his, er, alley.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jerry Coach

    Well Jerry will be found not guilty and he will be reinstated in State Penn so he can once again do the innocent things he has a Passion for... Such as showering, soaping up, horse play and bear hug young 9 and 10 year old boys in Penn State Gym locker showers. Can you say Not Guilty

    November 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jerry Sandusky

    Hello little boys - let's have a slumbeer party - yummmy!!!

    November 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
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