NBC's Bob Costas landed the first interview with accused former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky and it was not a pleasant experience for the subject or the viewers. Under close grilling from Costas, Sandusky maintains that he's innocent of the charges against him, but some of his answers were far from reassuring.
The interview, which was broadcast on Brian Williams' Rock Center on Monday night, was conducted over the phone with Sandusky's lawyer sitting next to Costas in the studio. Costas asked them both point blank if any of the accusations were true and if Sandusky was a pedophile. Sandusky maintained that he was innocent and that the witnesses (and there is more than one) who claimed they saw Sandusky molesting or raping young boys must be making up their claims.
Sandusky's lawyer, Joseph Amendola, hinted that several of Sandusky's alleged victims will soon step forward to defend him, including the boy (unidentified to this point) who was allegedly raped in the incident that was witnessed by then graduate assistant Mike McQueary.
However, Sandusky did not deny that he had showered with young boys after working out and that he engaged in what he considered to be harmless "horseplay" with some of the kids he was supposed to be looking after. Talking about hugging and touching and showering with young children are not things you want to be quoted about when everyone already thinks you're a predator. (Sandusky has been charged with 40 counts of sexual misconduct with children.)
Also adding to the damage: Sandsuky's lawyer Joseph Amendola said that he would allow Sandusky to supervise his own kids, but then The Daily almost immediately published a report that Amendola does not exactly have a spotless track record in this regard. He has two children with a woman that he married in 2003, but the first one was apparently born in 1996 when she was just 17 years old. He was 49 and she was 16 at the time she got pregnant. He was also the attorney for her emancipation from her parents. (The couple are now separated.)
(There was also another story yesterday that one of Sandusky's adopted children — found through his charity — attempted suicide shortly after moving into the Sandusky house. There is no evidence that there was any abuse, but it's still another unflattering headline at time when he doesn't need more bad press.)
But the worst moment of all came when Costas asked Sandusky, "Are you sexually attracted to young boys?" Instead of immediately saying, "No," the way someone supposedly denying the charge of being a pedophile might, Sandusky hesitated, prevaricating on the question and qualifying his answers with a confused reply of "sexually?" He then added "I enjoy young people." It took him 16 full seconds to finally say the word "no."
It's hard to fathom why Sandusky would agree to this interview, let alone give such baffling and (nearly) incriminating answers. There seems to be no benefit to his legal case and he's certainly didn't help his cause in the court of public opinion. Most of those who saw the interview were unsettled, but full credit must be given to Costas for asking tough questions and not sugar coating any of the issues at stake.
You watch the whole interview below:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.