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. mamabear

    @garry nelson...if this this man walks free based on reasonable doubt – he'd better stay in hiding for the rest of his days...

    November 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • And Justice For All...

      I find the interpretations of this interview to be somewhat confusing. Did Sandusky admit to hugging and touching boys IN THE SHOWER? It seems as though he admitted to each questionable act, however not at the same time. In that case, we should also consider that coaches smack the butts of team players. If Sandusky would have admitted to "touching" the butts of young boys, he would be executed.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Oldie in TampaBay

    DENIAL?

    November 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bette

    His attorney said they "believe" they have located the victim that McQueary saw. Meaning.... they are not sure exactly where the young man is, or they are not certain it is the right young man? Sandusky knew at the time that McQueary had seen them, and he was subsequently called on the carpet and (lightly) disciplined. No way he would have forgotten which boy was involved in that incident. But McQueary may not be able to make a positive identification of a young man who was a child when glimpsed 9 years ago. Would Sandusky take the risk of bringing in a ringer to testify that it was all good clean fun?

    November 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JOE

    Sandusky said he just horsed around! Well, exactly because someone was the horse and someone was doing the riding. Guilty as charged!

    November 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Louis Doores

    And dont forget about the drugie and child molester Micheal Jackson whom everyone is painting a perfect picture of him
    now that he is dead.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. elfster

    The problem with Sandusky's lame excuses, is going to be a big one that'll he'll never be able to explain away. The fact that volunteers and mentors in programs like this have back ground checks. And, have to sign Code of Conduct and ethic agreements in regards to how thes children in their care are to be handled. Top on the list is avoiding physical contact that can be misconstrued or make the child feel uncomfortable. The founder of the Second Mike wants us to believe he wasn't aware how inappropriate and unethical his behavior was???? Get real Jerry Sandusky! You're a lousy liar and an even worse pedophile!

    November 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dj

    Ynot, take your need to stand out and seem smart somewhere else. I am a pn abuse survivor, and the things the man has done, lets just say they seem very familiar. Just wrong to take paterno off of trophies? How sick are you? Thats football,this is life. Paterno will be able to sleep to avoid the questions. He will never know how it feels to be broken, the time of life you are starting to grow smashed to hell by the violation of a trusted person. I havent slept well in in a week, because everytime I turn around someones saying something about penn state. Hearing these stories brings back memories I dont like to think about,but guess what, I have no choice. To say paterno is innocent is plain ignorant. What he feels right now is nothing, when he could have stopped these sleepless nights for so many kids. You might turn your head or stop listening if I tried to tell you this in person. Have you ever looked a family member in the eye and tried to tell them something painful only to have them panic and avoid it at all costs to save some kind of illusion? Thats most of the world. Everyone hates a pedophile, but are you strong enough to understand the fear and isolation of the victims? I dont think so

    November 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • blf83

      Thank you for saying so well what we who were abused go through.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • corrie3

      Well said DJ. I think what you've brought up is being forgotten in the shuffle. These were children who will be harmed for the remainder of their lives and others like you are having terrible memories brought back to the surface. Your description of what it feels like to speak of such pain and have people unable to handle it and shut down will stay with me. I hope never to have to hear such things from anyone but unconditional love is the only way to even begin to help someone heal from something like this. My heart goes out to you.

      November 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jfTally

      "avoid it at all costs to save some kind of illusion"
      I've not gone through your experience, but you paint a vivid picture of the toll it takes.
      Well said.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. 16halo

    Sandusky and his attorney wants us to believe that he does not understand what the big deal is, and it's wrong for a man his age to be fooling around with young boys in a shower. He wants us to believe that is was harmless fun. That he touch them but not their legs; "wink" wink". Their legs are where their privates are, and I know that is wrong, but everything else is fair game, right? No Sandusky it's not and you knew that. These boys disenfranchised young boys was vulnerable and you deliberately sought them out because of their vulnerability. I do believe in innocent until proven guilty, but Sandusky is not making a good case for himself and neither is his attorney. It's insulting to us the viewing public and to the young boys who he took these supposedly innocent showers with.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Del Kentner

    Examining his exact words leads one to conclude he admits to criminal child abuse. As in "I could say I have done some of those things." He then admits to specific acts without denying he did other, worse things.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cooler Head

    For those who are having a difficult time with the very American concept of "innocent until proven guilty", for those who simply want to "shoot the guy in the head", you need to research the Mc Marten pre-school trial. They were innocent. The trial stirred up the same level of indignation. Peggy McMartin did two years in jail. Her son did five. A 79 year old woman was put on trial. They were drained of their savings and property. Again, they were innocent. Someone who actually did what Sandusky is accused of, would be a slimy creep. But let's hold off until the actual facts are in and people have to testify not only under oath but are also subject to cross examination. An entirely different picture might emerge.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Daniel

    It's funny to me, that if you listen to this guy talk and answer the questions he uses many different common lying techniques. No-one even bothers to mention his deflections, his answering questions with a question, his inability to really speak with confidence. I'll be surprised if he doesn't commit suicide. This is an incredibly sad situation. I feel sorry for his attorney that has to sell his soul to convince himself that he is doing the right thing.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tony

    He should just kill himself now

    November 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JOE

    They've located the victim? I thought there were two hundred victims? After all, he has been raping young boys for more than a decade. Let's do a recount!

    November 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Liolio

    Can not believe is out and able to go anywhere freely. Shouldn't the bail atleast have been higher?!? His backyard faces a local elementary school! It should also be noted the judge who set bail was connected to his charity second mile!

    November 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Disgusted PSU alum

    To Sandusky:
    Haven't you done enough already to drag down the university, let alone and more importantly, to destroy the young lives you affected? Shut up, go away, and may God have mercy on your miserable soul. Sadly, you are nothing more than a one-time campus hero who turned out to be a pervert that ruined many lives and careers in the process.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
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