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. MaryTurp

    Speaking about the McQuery guy, what a panzy.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • c.t.

      He's also 6 feet 6 inches tall and big and back then 28 years of age. What a piece of work!

      November 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • james

      The guy is a pedophile who should be prosecuted and put in jail for the rest of his life. The society should protect children from predators like him and in my opinion the head coach (Joe) and the assistant (who was senior student that time) should all be prosecuted and put in jail

      November 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC

      Sandusky's 'hail-mary' ?? Is this a friggin' joke CNN? Enough with the football references already. THIS IS ABOUT CHILD ABUSE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND!?!?

      November 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bigwilliestyles

    Not to forget that the one guy who tried to prosecute the case turned up missing and presumed dead...this thing is rotten, all the way to the core...stay tuned, more to come.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      He was told of the 1998 allegations and didn't pursue Sandusky... just because he disappeared doesn't mean there's a connection... you conspiracy theorists, you're an interesting bunch... just like the fact that the judge gave him unrestricted bail also volunteered at his charity.. why does that matter? Thousands of people in central PA volunteer for The Second Mile... Are we to assume that they had a personal relationship? Odds are they never even met.

      November 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kidding

      Everyone that knew Sandusky should be fired from their jobs ... there should be widespread job openings across Pennsylvania ...

      November 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • c.t.

      Very good point to bring to attention. I truly hope that is investigated. I have a strong inclination that Paterno was summoned to a meeting about this D.A. and options to make it go away.

      November 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • JacsinJax

      Hey Eric, anyone else would have had the million dollar SECURED bail but he got 100k UNSECURED. So he walked out the door not posting a cent. Anyone else would have to turn over their passport, wear a monitor and couldn't have an elementary school outside their back door. It doesn't pass the smell test.

      November 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cheesehead

    So he's claiming that he didn't inhale?! Right.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bigwilliestyles

    @ James: no, but if some perv brought a 10 year old to our school and showered with him, it would have set off alarms with both students and staff; except, of course, those like you who support man/boy love.

    November 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Every recorded instance of him showering with underage boys was after hours when he assumed no one would be around... you act as if he was bringing them in right after football practice and pinning them to the wall while JoePa and the team watched

      November 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yup

      Gotta agree with Eric on that one ... people are making it out like Penn St was so involved with this man that they knew all of this was happening and that if they stopped him then he would leave ... that is not the case ... McQueary should go to jail for seeing it and not reporting it, then he should be in the same cell as Sandusky ... that way they can get acquainted

      November 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bigwilliestyles

    @ Really: turn your dumb statement around: are YOU saying that out of 40,000 students and staff, over 15 years, no one knew anything? Now who sounds ridiculous?

    November 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yup

      You still sound ridiculous ... how many people come in contact with serial killers or terrorists and don't know what they do??

      November 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      You can give it a rest no is buying your cult mentality. It is absurd that no one of your supposed 600,000 "witnesses" and "co-conspirators" said anything. I know you want to toss blame around but without any proof and facts these conspiracy theories are just that theories,

      November 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Michael Jackson

    Anyone can get away with anything ...

    November 15, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Turnstile

    Jerry is trying to make it seem like he was with the kids while they had clothes on and was tickling them and things of that nature ... problem is that he was naked in a shower ... with a boy ... those things go from harmless to illegal as soon as the clothes are off pal

    November 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Troublesome

    Will this act now be deemed as "Getting Sanduskied" ??

    November 15, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bigwilliestyles

    @ Eric: lots of men volunteer for NAMBLA, every one of them with perv intentions; what's YOUR point?

    November 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bigwilliestyles

    40,000 x 15 years = 600,000 potential witnesses AFTER he was caught the first time. Maybe, like some other cults, the truth is that the area is riddled with pervs or perv lovers. Remember 'reverend' Jeffs...?

    November 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mack

    I have one pressing question in all of this. When Sandusky brought young boys to stay overnight at his house, WHERE WAS HIS WIFE – did she turn a blind eye to what he was doing?????

    November 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bigwilliestyles

    @ Really?: so, smart guy, what is your explanation for this pos being able to bring children to a place where there were, by your words, 40,000 people, for 15 years, AFTER he was caught by a student, with charges dropped, and continued to use Penn's facilities to do so? What's your "see how bright I am" explanation for all of that? Just all coincidence, I'm sure.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • tmac

      You don't even have the facts right. Indeed, you can't even get the name of the school correct. Sheesh.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brian

    Where does Sandusky go to church? People like this tend to be very religious.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. stonycurtis

    "Your Honor, my client is not a monster. he's just A WiLD AND CRAZY GUY!" this lawyer he hired is really the nail in his coffin.

    November 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RLong

    GARY SANDUSKY IS INNOCENT. GARY SANDUSKY IS INNOCENT!...................UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY,...BEYOND A SHADOW,...A SHADOW OF DOUBT.

    REMEMBER, THIS IS THE PRICE OF FREEDOM!

    November 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ima Nidiot

      He already admitted on national TV that some of the allegations are truthful, so not sure how dark and deep those old shadows of doubt will be. There's a key on the keyboard called 'CAPS LOCK', do some research on that.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
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