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. Portland tony

    After all now folks, it was a respected news outlet that brought this warped interview to you. Anything for ratings!

    November 15, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ted

    SHut up Sandusky and have your buddy Joe Pa do the same. You took advantage of kids!!! There's nothing you can say to make it better. In your mind the otehr thing you did wrongs was get caught!!

    November 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sadness

    I just can't think of this situation without getting nauseated by the thought of an innocent boy being abused by a big nasty old man. But equally repulsive is the fact there are people in this world that knew what was happening and just turned their head the other way. They just did not care. How in the world can you go to sleep knowing what was going on? How can you not know that that was wrong? What is happening to our society? We is our compassion?
    THis is what I call "defile concience"

    November 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SEC_rules

    PSU = Pedophile State University ...that will be what they're known for ..not Joe Paterno..FOREVER..Period..They should have taken 2 sec's to think about how their lack of action would forever put a dark cloud on that University. I have always hated PITT, now I can lump Pedophile State U into that category. It just goes to show what kind of people run those PA universities. They are the ones that are out for themselves...screw everyone else.

    November 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • tmac

      What a thoughtful and reasoned dissertation from an SEC aficionado. How proud you must make them down South - which has such a glorious history of treating human beings with dignity and respect. Hah!!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • growupyouidiot

      This is more about a football rivalry than kids being abused for you, isn't it? Pathetic.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ken

    Can we all and the media stop all this non-sense and ratings grabbing to allow the process to work. Is he guilty? Let a jury decide not the media. When I was in high school our adult coaches showered with us..it was a different time ( there was no leg touching that I can remember ) but they did jump in the communal showers after working out. It was very common.

    I was not there at Penn State, I have not read the grand jury report, interviewed the kid. I have only heard the reports peppered with words like monster and pervert.....let the process work. Dont keep repeating his interview.

    The news media including CNN should stop acting like they are in a ratings war with SVU.

    Sandusky: monster

    Cain: monster.

    CNN: Dr Frankenstein?

    CNN you are a news outlet not an gossip network. Hunter S. Thompson was right.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Did they have 10 years olds in your high school to shower with?

      November 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • tmac

      Ken...yours is the only intelligent post I've read on this board. Everyone else has a gaslight and pitchfork in their hands.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bigwilliestyles

    Hey Lou Doosh: since you want to bring up unrelated drug use, don't forget your fearless leader and CONFESSED DRUG ADDICT RUSH LIMBAUGH.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • aNN

      Rush LimpBalls, lol lol lol

      November 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frankspeaking1

    I have a question for Coach Sandusky: Did you shower with members of the Penn State football team after workouts? If not, why not? Were they too old for that kind of thing, or just big and strong enough to defend themselves?

    November 15, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sharon

      Exactly!!

      November 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bigwilliestyles

    @ Ken: I went to high school and college, and we always knew who the potential perv staff were. As a matter of fact, anyone who had any reason to be alone with them was instantly made fun of, and if you went there twice, you were his 'girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever...

    November 15, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. disgusted

    Cut off their genitalia- Sandusky,Paterno, Cain

    November 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MaryTurp

    If I were a Pedophile State University student, I'd be asking for a refund and or discount in tuition about now. It is not what they signed up for. Oh, but wait, PSU will be raising tuition as they're going to have to pay those lawsuits some how.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • tmac

      So unfair for you to slander an entire student population over what is alleged to have happened here.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MegB

    If I had been wrongly accused of something so heinous, I would be furious – this guy is missing any rage or fury – just trying to cover up what he knows he did. He is absolutely disgusting.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MaryTurp

    This guy is lucky that he only had something thrown through his window. If he live in my neighborhood I don't believe that he'd be alive right now.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MaryTurp

    MegB. You're absolutely onto something..Where is the rage..agreed.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bigwilliestyles

    ...my point being that it is very unlikely that a LOT of people at Penn State, both staff and students, were unaware of what that POS was doing, and continued to do, for 15 more years AT Penn State AFTER he was caught by a student. Do you really think that student didn't share what he saw with other students?

    November 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      The statement is unfounded and ridiculous. So all 40,000 students were aware of what was going on and all 40,000 students turned the other way for the sake of football. RIDICULOUS!

      November 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • growupyouidiot

      @Really? I grew up in Texas and attended UT. Yeah, they will do pretty much anything to protect the football program. I remember Ricky Williams would leave his Hummer parked in the middle of a downtown street if he saw a bar or whatever that he wanted to pop into. Cops would actually put up a barricade around the thing until he retrieved it. Not a stretch to see how something like this would be covered up to protect the program.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  15. MaryTurp

    Agree with you Bigwilliestyules. People talk. Most can't be trusted with any secrets.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
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