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. tisvulcan

    It's been reported that the judge handling this case was once a volunteer for "Second Mile", thus, the $100,000 bail. If Sandusky has ANY morality left (which I'm sure he doesn't and never did) he would plead out to the charges and save the survivors of his abuse the humiliation of re-living their trauma on a witness stand. God bless them, every one.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. lifesentence

    It was hard even listening to that interview. Sandusky sounds like a very confused, sick man...may God have mercy on his soul, because nobody else is going to after hearing that.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
    • dumbpeopleeverywhere

      agreed, this guys just one of the cases proving some people do not belong in humanity

      November 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. radixlecti

    I think Mr. Sanduskys interview just put him in jail for life.....as he should be.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Skin yard

    Not to mention that Sandusky’s Lawyer impregnated a 17 year old girl he was representing at the time and he was 49 years old.
    Perfect person to represent Sandusky.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. Karma

    What a liar Sandusky is – the interview was creepy and chilling. I hope he goes to prision and has unlimited "horseplay" with his fellow inmates.

    November 16, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Sandy

    Anyone wondering just what he did to his 6 adopted kids, five boys one girl and to foster kids that went through that house???????????????? How about grandchildren!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joan

    I am beginning to be concerned that there is such a totally explosive reaction to this case that he will never be able to get anything close to a fair trial. change of venue? of course.. but to where.. outer mongolia? I would sure hate to see his man 'get off' because the media over saturated this case so much that he gets off on some technicality.
    Maybe we should tone it down a bit until we see the case play itself out... concentrate on creating and maintaining new procedures for the reporting and investigation of these type of abuses.

    November 16, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. Donna

    This guy is a pervert and anyone who thinks he isn't needs their head examined. Those poor children if I was their parent he would be always looking over his shoulder. Hope they get him in prison you know gang up on him and give him some of his own medicine, he's nothing but a coward.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Crista

    To Joan: regarding a fair trial
    They could use the Casey Anthony jury again. (sarcasm here )

    November 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. roksnbeast

    Well, Michael Jackson made that sort of claim work.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • livin

      Can't compare this case to the Michael Jackson case, where there was absolutly No evidence, i mean nothing. If you do any research at all you would see that Michael Jackson's trial proved how innocent he really was.

      The Sandusky/Penn State case is similar to the Catholic Church scandel based on the cover-up, hard evidince and actual witnesses. This is a sick and sad story.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. linton

    What about that punk assistant who seen an did nothing to help that kid at the very moment ? What about that . No one saying that he was wrong for not helping .

    November 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    Sandusky, do the world a favor and take a rope, go out in your front yard and hang yourself from the tallest tree you can find. Don't do it in the house. You wouldn't want to make someone have to clean up your crap when your sphincter lets go!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jpswoosh

    hello

    November 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jpswoosh

    typical psychopathic b.s. He is just trying to confuse the issue – by admitting to being a creepazoid, he is trying to deflect the sick reality of the situation. All football coaches know the best defense is a good offense. Nice try.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Glenda

    I understand that Jerry Sandusky is considered innocent until proven guilty, so I am not trying convict him here of anything. Having said that, I read on Wikipedia today that Mr. Sandusky and his wife Dottie had adopted six (6) children, and had taken in several foster children as well. I am wondering if anyone has considered that he could have possibly abused his own children and those foster children who lived with him in the past.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glenda

      Sorry, please excuse my typo, I meant to say, I am not trying to convict him here. ....just correcting my previous post.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
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