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.


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.” 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"

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. Bill Mosby

    Just another facet of a multifaceted bozo.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. schrish

    just shoot the guy in the head and lets be done with this awful affair.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sortakinda

    This "man" is a monster, nothing less. Nothing will ever equalize the damage he was allowed to do. If anyone still wonders if EVIL exists, look at Sandusky's resume.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Walter

    The headline is redundant. Sandusky's critics wouldn't have been happy with anything he said – even if he said he did it.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brick

    So you mean this dude gave an interview saying he showered with boys. He might as well stayed silent. Dumbest move alive. Now I know you are a perv. Ok so yes up until recent history pedophilia was an acceptable practice and you are like a throw back to man's more primative days. OK I get that...but hey if you wanna do that then shoot yourself and hopefully your Hell will be set in the times of Rome. Either way keep your nasty baby raping self's in hiding or we will kill you. #GodHonest

    November 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. vintage274

    This is precisely why victims often don't come forward. The perpetrator, who is always in some position of power over the victim (this time due to the nature of his job and reputation), can use his power to further manipulate the situation and pile more humiliation and harm on the victim. Sick behavior. Just as sick as the original crime. Pedophiles convince themselves that what they do is either harmless to the child or somehow comforting and beneficial to the child. It's why they have trouble displaying any guilt. They are so in denial as to their own behavior, their lives are one big lie.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Chris

    All I think about when I hear this story is Pulp Fiction. Get a pair of plyers and blow torch..Problem solved. These pedophiles can not be rehabilitated. Period. Put them in jail and before they get out, which by the way will not be as much time as a drug dealer, burn off the problem areas with a blow torch.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paul

    What an idiot. Anything he says in any interview he gives, is fair game in court.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mark

    The guy knows that if he goes to jail he could be killed.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Richard

    This trail is going to cost a lot of money.. I have a suggestion for the prosecution. Offer him life in solitary confinement if he pleads guily and they can eliminate a trail. If he chooses a trial he then goes into the general population. No mercy, no changing the prosecutions mind. Lets see how long he will stay alive with the general population.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Molly Brown

    If you read excerpts of Jerry's book "Touched" on, search for "Jer's Law". He developed his own code of ethics that he could be mischievous, pull pranks, have a good time. Basically do whatever he wanted. However, if he were caught by authorities, he has to tell the truth or portions of it. I want to believe that there were no child victims prior to 1994. Yet the mind and neural pathways remain consistent and Jerry's wiring could have been faulty since a child or teen when he invented "Jer's Law". He also admits to being insane at times. If JoePa, President Spanier who has a degree in counseling, or his wife Dottie (affectionately known as "Sarge") had reached out and demanded psychiatric evaluation, Jerry may have been stopped before 2009 in molesting children.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. garry nelson

    In my many years on both sides of the courtroom I have formed the opinion that to be a sucessful criminal defendant one must lie consistant with the truth. If it is a DUI and the officer testifies that "he had a odor of alcohol and he was swerving down the street". The defendant must testify that "he had a beer, he wasn't drunk and he was swerving to miss, what he thought, was broken glass on the road surface. That way the jury does not have to call the Officer a liar when they find reasonable doubt and acquit the defendant. this story begins the lie.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • KE

      Agree. Starting to lay the foundation for things to come.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mamabear

    if this man touched my child, he would not be alive today - and thats the truth ruth. i cannot summon any compassion for this man, nor can i find any understanding for those who IMO covered up his secrets. this fills me with so much sadness and rage...those poor kids and this pathetic man.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. B Dog

    I totally believe him!!!! No really!

    November 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Patrick

    How did this guy get bail?

    November 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Bail very low for the crime. Set by Judge who is in with the group.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • KE

      The Judge should be jailed

      November 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
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