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. Bucko G

    Makes me wonder what defensive linemen can now snarl to Penn's linemen to break their spirits!

    November 16, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tony

    On TV this morning I heard Sandusky called "just an overgrown kid." Right. As in "I'll show you mine if you show me yours....?"

    November 16, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. JustTell

    It is very typically for perpetrators to admit to small details hoping that they will receive sympathy or mercy for their larger misdeeds by people seeing that they just 'really like' little kids. Its right in line with the pattern by which their self denial allows them to believe they are simply being 'fatherly' or 'kind' or affectionate' to their victims. We are JustTell. We empower youth to speak up to TELL an adult what is happening. On behalf of everyone at JustTell, we wish we had been there in that shower room.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. JustTell

    Sorry...typical not typically.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. Em

    If it's all true – he should be shot. you don't do that to kids. no excuses. if even part of it's true – he should be put in jail for the rest of his life.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. EM

    This guy makes my skin crawl. Absolutely creepy. And yet - why? Why does a man do this? This can not be normal. Therefore, he is sick. And if he is sick, can we truly condemn him? Condemning someone implies he had a choice to not commit a crime. But if he is truly mentally ill (which, I believe, he is), what do we do?

    November 16, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. UCSB

    Put this guy in jail and throw away the key!!! Oh yeah, make sure he has some tough perverts in prison that can join him in the shower. 🙂 No need to be concerned, they will just be horsing around. 🙂

    November 16, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  8. KT

    I don't think this piece of human garbage should even be allowed to speak to the press anymore about the case... in my opinion his lies and ridiculous answers to the questions asked are incredibly disrespectful to his many victims. I know he's "innocent until proven guilty," but when there are this many victims coming forward, and at least 2 different eyewitnesses to severe abuse on 2 different occasions, it seems pretty straight-forward to me...

    November 16, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. r s kahn

    I personally think that Bob Costas was out of lilne in doing the interview, in asking those questions, in putting the whole issue on public display at that level. The kids need to be protected – but this type of reporting is not helpful on any level.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Milo S.

      You gotta wonder why they picked Costas in the first place....

      November 16, 2011 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. michele

    @ Cindy I totally think the same thing, he will kill himself before trial.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jim J

    Horses were involved too?

    November 16, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sad

    Okay, so for 15 or more years this has been going on. I'm positive more people knew what was going on and did nothing! "Can you say cover up?" The previous D.A. gone, missing without a trace??? My guess is he is either dead or was paid off and now lives in another country. Then you have the judge who has contributed money to this man to further his abuse to children, lets him off with no bail???? First of all if she is friends with this man or even contributed a penny to him she should have recused herself..."cover up" This could not have gone on this long without people knowing and covering it up.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. kimj

    This interview was very disturbing to me. He all but admitted he molested these kids and i think he truly thinks nothing is wrong with what he has done.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. Park

    This guy makes me believe in casteration ??????

    November 16, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. bigwilliestyles

    From Penn State To State Penn, Or How I Went From Big Man On Campus To Little Bi**h In The Joint, by Jerry Sandusky.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
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