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. David

    Pedophiles, including priest, as well as drug addicts, alcoholics, thieves, murderers and the rest of the dregs ALWAYS LIE!

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

      This is so true, I love booze and I lie my f'ng balls off.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ian

    this is clearly all a big mistake. he was a football coach. he was married. he has kids.
    yep, its just another darn, left-wing media conspiracy. thats what it is. uh-huh. stupid ol' media.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Andrew

    He has got the be trying to get the case thrown out. There is not a jury anywhere in PA that can give him a fair trial. I think they are trying to get as much publicity as possible so that there is a slip up or technicality that causes a mistrial.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John Dodds

    Justice by a witch hunting lynch mob reported by yellow jornalism is not justice. It's insanity

    November 15, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      So you are defending a child molester. Nice. Your momma must be soooo proud.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. T&T

    After hearing the interview – this guy is CRAZY! It seems that de does not see this as wrong.....like he is completely out of touch with reality. Put him away for the rest of his life – and the rest of then that covered it up. This is SO sick. And so are the Penn St students that are still "honoring" Joe Pop.......these freaks are no different – putting the rep of the school in front of the safety and wellbeing of CHILDREN. Makes me SO sick!

    November 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. james

    a big over grown kid just horsin around.... actually, he's a pig. a monster!

    November 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. truth

    This guy is a perfect candidate for the Catholic Church. Make him a priest or bishop ASAP.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Really

    Huh, Michael Jackson sleeps in the same bed with people-he's acquitted and supported by MANY. This guy is villified (rightfully so!) Why isn't Michael?

    November 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    He just touched their legs without intent of se-
    x-
    ual contact?
    Oh, that's OK then.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bella

    "Is there anyone who gives a presumption of innocence at this point? No," Geragos said.

    IN A COURT OF LAW. I will presume this monster is guilty and that is my right as a human being. If I was on a jury, I would be bound to presume that he was innocent but I am NOT. No network, no media outlet should have let this monster speak. AT ALL.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. john

    How full of ourselves are we these days?
    "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."

    This isn't a last ditch 'hail mary', this is first down in the first quarter of a game (if you need a sports reference). Being tried in the social media and by opinion columns doesn't mean anything. This will be tried in the real world in a court of law.

    How self obsessed are we as a society that we think our tweets or comments mean anything. Get over yourselves. Sandusky will get his justice and you'll have nothing to do with it. Accept it.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dj

    To those of you defending his presumed innocence. I understand. I am a proud american,and I agree that he must be treated as any other man by a court of law. But we are not in a court of law. We can speak however we wish here,within reason. The man is guilty. He admits to showering and touching these kids. Would you wrestle a kid in shower,yours or otherwise? I hope to hell not. Please be more aware of the people you hurt here, although I know it is in defense of our system,which is why im not angry. Just hurt. And to whoever thanked me, I thank you. We need each other, because try as they might, noone else could understand. To know that I may have helped someone else feel heard or understood is more valuable than gold.stay strong. It may seem endless,but we will continue to survive. They may not see us all,but we will be here.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JP-A!

    We, in a society, don't live in a vacuum.
    All of our actions have re-actions, like the ripple effect of a stone being dropped in a pond.
    Sandusky's (alleged) deplorable actions have had a huge fallout. 1) the kids that were harmed (even if it turns out in the end that all he did was shower naked, soap them up, and 'horseplay' with them. 2) It has definitely affected his wife, his neighbors, and his whole community. 3) McQueary's (in)actions have left him vilified and perhaps without a career. 4) Joe Paterno's (in)action have cost him his job, and perhaps his decades-long reputation. 5)The senior brass who were notified at Penn – regardless of who's held accountable, and who pays – have tarnished the reputation of the entire school. 6) The students who protested Joe's firing without knowing all the facts, and turned it into a riot, have further tarnished Penn's reputation. 7) The people involved in the Second Mile Charity are now paying the price for their inaction and/or complicity. In the end, thousands of people are affected, will lose jobs, see their careers in tatters, have to deal with the fall-out, all because ONE man chose to (allegedly) act-out his pedophile tendencies and others chose to turn a blind eye. So, as the dominoes fall one by one, and Penn struggles to regain its status, I repeat:
    "We in a society, don't live in a vacuum". All actions have re-actions. He should have got professional help when he could....

    November 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy©

    @Bill:
    I have never *ever*, heard of a coach showering with his team.
    Not in elementary, not in middle school, not in high school, whatever.
    when I was in school, it never happened, and when my kids were in school, it never happened.
    There may be schools that this is considered perfectly normal behavior; I don't know of one, however.
    Not to mention the fact that this was a *10-year old boy*, showering with a *college coach,* alone, in a college locker room.
    Nope, I doubt this is the norm.
    Sandusky's behavior is abhorrent, just like he is.

    November 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dj

    i know this is my third statement, but ive got alot on m mind so if cnn post it you can deal with it. i never got a choice. what is done is done, and there is no changing that. i want you ll to understand,at least as much as you can. i was a troublemaker as a kid. a bad one. to the extent in fact,that to protect my sister and brother i needed to go live with an uncle. i stayed with him for awhile, and absolutely anything i wanted was mine. he payed attention when i spoke, and seemed to want nothing more than to hang around me. i thought he cared about me. after a while,the nights got bad. he insisted on living arrangements that no adult should, and the attention became darker. i will not go into detail. i lived for years on my own with it. he died without ever facing it. my silence is required, because i was sent to live there. if you see what that means, it means the people i love can never know why i am the way am now, to protect them from the corruption. its not as simple as the pain the abuse cost. i was handed a burden i cannot truly handle, but cannot ask for help with. its just not that simple as saying something about it. my life will never be the same, and i can do nothing , because i must protect those that i love. i dont really know what this post is supposed to do other than allow you to see, this web is tangled, and bigger than you ever think.

    November 15, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain America

      dj,
      There are others of us out here. Do not give up, do not let the dark ones win. Yes, we have been given a burden, but don't allow it to burden your children and other loved ones. The "bad" was not you. Just realize that you will never be completely rid of it, and it has had a part in making you as you are. When something like this comes along (again) it will rear it's ugly head and you will temporarily be diseased with it. With the love and understanding of others, you'll make it out the other side. You are not alone.

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