On Monday morning, The Today Show aired elements of an interview with Jerry Sandusky, the disgraced former Penn State football coach whose conviction on child sex abuse charges tarnished the university and the career of the late Joe Paterno.
The interview tapes were aired via John Ziegler, a filmmaker preparing a documentary titled "Framing Paterno." As its name would suggest, the project is a defense of Paterno, and the angle and context of the 3 1/2 hours' worth of interviews with Sandusky is intended to deflect blame away from Paterno.
Asked if he thought Paterno believed Sandusky was a pedophile, Sandusky replied, "If I thought I was, I'd say no. If he had a suspicion, I don't know the answer to that."
Paterno's family attorney responded to Ziegler in a statement, calling this audio release "a sad and unfortunate development. The statement noted that Paterno's family has had "no role in obtaining or releasing this recording. Moreover, they believe that any attempt to use this recording as a defense of Joe Paterno is misguided and inappropriate."
Still, Ziegler is seeking to rehabilitate Paterno's reputation, albeit posthumously, and to provide context to the overall story now that emotions have cooled somewhat. "I have no doubt that Jerry Sandusky was guilty of many of things, if not all the things, that he was accused of," he told Today's Matt Lauer on Monday, "but I do believe there were due process problems with the trial."
Sandusky was more direct when speaking of Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who first observed Sandusky in 2001 with a 10-year-old boy in a Penn State locker room shower. Sandusky disputed McQueary's contention that he heard sounds that seemed to be of a sexual nature:
“I don't understand how anybody would have walked into that locker room from where he was and heard sounds associated that was sex going on like he said that could've been,’’ Sandusky laughed on the tapes. “I mean, that would have been the last thing I would have thought about. I would have thought maybe fooling around or something like that."
Attorneys for Victim #2, the victim in the shower incident, also released a statement, which read, "Jerry Sandusky is a convicted child predator giving interviews from prison. Our clients, including Victim 2, have heard enough from Jerry Sandusky. They are focused on healing and holding Penn State accountable for choosing to protect Jerry Sandusky and themselves instead of protecting children from years of horrific sexual abuse."
During his interviews, Sandusky also sought to muddy the waters surrounding the prosecution's case against him as it related to McQueary: "I think these investigators, the way they went about business, his story changed a lot. I think [McQueary] said some things and then it escalated on him even. There's a lot of suggestive questioning."
Ziegler followed up on that line, adding in his own interview, "It depends on which version of Mike McQueary's testimony you believe. I don't believe that Mike McQueary is lying, by the way. I think a large part of what's happened here is over 10 years your memory changes and then when a prosecution is desperate for a witness they might twist your arm a little bit. I think it's important to keep in mind that we didn't have as much information about Jerry Sandusky in 2001 as we do now." He further noted that Victim #2 had given an interview to an FBI investigator that he was never molested, and that he was compelled to lie.
Ziegler has sought to address the controversy with what Lauer called a "preemptive strike," an open letter to the media over his intentions. "I've devoted most of my career to analyzing the media, and I personally believe the media in this particular case has an agenda. They don't want to hear what the truth is. This has been a rush to judgment from the beginning, and I know I'm going to get attacked from everybody."
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