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. bigwilliestyles

    @ stoneycurtis: lmao! Please stoney, I'm trying to be serious here. Ahahahahaha!

    November 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Benjamin

    JoePa did not want to know. He did not ask questions. He passed the buck to admin. For shame.

    November 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Michael2010

    They should kill him, period

    November 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duke Lacrosse Team

      Are you a Taliban, or what?

      November 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mary

    Why is he not monitored??

    November 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • die already

      because his friend & charity supporter Judge Leslie Dutchcot set him free with no bail, no monitoring device...a get out of jail free card. she is blonde...maybe that's why?

      November 15, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • die already

      now are you going to ask why she was the judge & didn't recuse herself? it stinks bad

      November 15, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bigwilliestyles

    Yeah. Nothing. How surprising. This isn't a conspiracy theory pal, this is a conspiracy. How about that "unsecured bond" situation that JacsinJax mentioned? Getting harder and harder to ignore/defend now. The place stinks; period.

    November 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mm

    Paterno as well as every other man in this men's club sold their souls as well as the lives of children all in the name of football and the almighty dollar. They will have a higher authority to answer to and it won't be those at Penn State.
    If I saw what was seen by so many, Sandusky would have been begging me to call the police. No need for him to worry about being someone's punk a** bi*** in prison as I would be the one going to prison for doing what anyone who was not morally corrupt should have done.

    November 15, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. die already

    Why have all these heads been rolling? Slimedusky had better get convicted, that's all I can say.

    November 15, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bigwilliestyles

    What a load of crock.

    November 15, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joyous56

    Call me naive, but can anyone tell me if it's common for coaches to shower with the team, let alone young boys who have no connection to the team....and do so alone? And if so, is it common for coaches to TOUCH their fellow showerers while naked? Are guys different....women in the showers generally respect one anothers privacy by not looking, let alone touching.

    This whole thing is disgusting.

    November 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ummm, no, no, and no.

      Having been both a high school and college male athlete, I have never seen a coach typically even set foot in the locker room, much less take a shower. Coaches, that is the ones who are not pedophiles, have no need to shower...coaching does not involve that much physical exertion, in most sports. As far as horseplay in the shower, well, despite some gay fantasies to the contrary, normal straight men typically consider such activities, somewhat gay, and therefore it tends not to happen.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Super Adventure Club

    Come on and join! Chef has a new trick, he calls it the Upper Sandusky!

    November 15, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. gung hoe

    @joyus 56 Really men are not much more differently than woman.I have experienced many community showers,that is where a group are naked at same time showering.And NEVER! have I experienced anything like that,In either high school or the army,hope I answered your question

    November 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. gung hoe

    I know this is wrong of me,but I hope and pray that that pervert gets put in the general population .There they find out what he did he wont last a day!!!

    November 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. daithi mac curtáin

    Showering with a 10 year old child is totally inappropriate , 40 people came forward ,it only takes one of them to be true to have him locked up .

    November 15, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Zenith

    This guy has sick and distorted thinking. He needs an ankle monitor and penis cage if he is not going to be in police custody.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously, a cage?

      Wow, that could have saved me so much grief as a teenager

      November 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. yada

    This is so discusting and sick! How can the judge get away with being his judge? Isn't that a huge conflict of interest? Another proof of our corrupt government!

    November 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
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