The voice over the phone sounded as weak and pathetic as the explanations and excuses it was trying to spread.
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, his first public comments since being charged by a Pennsylvania grand jury with 40 counts of sexual abuse of minors on Nov. 5.
In an NBC interview full of gut-wrenching moments, there were two that stood out.
First when Costas asked Sandusky if he was completely innocent of all the allegations against him.
“I have done some of those things,” Sandusky said. “I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their leg without intent of sexual contact.”
Then came a back and forth after Costas asked him there was anything he now wishes he had not done.
Sandusky: Well, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have showered with those kids. And, so …
Costas: That’s it?
Sandusky: Yeah, that’s what hits me the most.
Costas: Are you a pedophile?
Costas: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to under age boys?
Sandusky: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?
(There was a nearly two-second pause)
Sandusky: Sexually attracted, no, I, I enjoy young people. I, I love to be around them. I, I, but no I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.
Sandusky would deny he ever had full sexual contact, as two separate eyewitnesses in two separate incidents (a janitor in 2000, then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary in 2002) testified under oath.
[ Related: Sandusky proclaims innocence in NBC interview ]
His attorney, Joe Amendola, would later suggest some of the other victims in the grand jury’s “finding of fact” would recant their claims. Who is Joe Amendola? According to Pennsylvania court documents obtained by The Daily, in 1996, at the age of 49, he impregnated a 17-year-old girl. The two later married and divorced.
Sandusky’s denial and Amendola’s legal work may help in a court of law, where Sandusky, 67, maintains a presumption of innocence.
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.
It’s worse than that though. Sandusky was first investigated for this behavior in 1998. Both the Penn State University and City of State College police departments conducted probes, that included Sandusky admitting he showered with a victim to the victim’s mother as detectives from both forces listened in another room. Sandusky acknowledged to Costas that conversation took place.
It remains an unanswered question, and perhaps inexplicable mystery why charges were not brought in that case.
Sandusky survived that close call, which would've made him keenly aware of how inappropriate his actions were (if it was even possible to ever be unaware). He continued to shower with young boys anyway.
He simply didn’t care. He simply wouldn’t stop.
If there is anything good that can come out of this case, it is the raising of the public awareness to how people such as Jerry Sandusky think.
It appears that he was allowed to continue because too many people in authority – from the police, to the county prosecutor, to Penn State administrators and, to a certain degree, Joe Paterno – didn’t recognize that he would never stop until he was put behind bars. This includes the judge who this month released him on $100,000 unsecured bail, which means he pays nothing unless he fails to show up for court.
In Jerry Sandusky’s mind, the very wrong things he was doing weren’t that wrong. In this very interview, even after this national firestorm, Sandusky continued to argue minor points and paint himself as confused about right and wrong. Not that he was believable.
If Sandusky truly thought at the time this was even remotely appropriate, why did he continually wait until the Penn State locker room was empty to shower with the boys?
If there was nothing wrong, then why not try it in front of everyone?
Which brings up the second jolting passage, where Sandusky offers up an explanation for his relationship with children that sounded like something from Michael Jackson.
It is simply impossible to imagine how a grown man, when asked if he was sexually attracted to young boys, would hesitate for even a second before screaming “no.”
To try to explain it with, “I enjoy young people” and “I love to be around them,” falls to some perverse sense of entitlement, suggesting he thought he deserves those relationships no matter what everyone else is suggesting.
It’s not as if Sandusky wasn’t capable of strong answers when it came to other questions. While he wasn’t emphatic in denying his sexual attractions to boys, he was when declaring that Paterno never once asked him about his behavior.
That’s an answer that will play to both camps in the debate about what Paterno knew and whether he should’ve done more. The defenders can point to more proof that Paterno was disengaged and wasn’t covering anything up.
The critics can ask how the legendary coach could’ve heard McQueary’s description in 2002 (no matter how watered down) and not confront Sandusky over the ensuing nine-and-a-half years. That’s a time frame that includes Paterno being hauled in front of a grand jury himself to answer questions about Sandusky’s behavior.
Regardless of legal culpability or civil liability, in a broader sense and blessed with hindsight, it’s undeniable that many in the Penn State community failed to do more to stop Jerry Sandusky.
It stands to reason they did not all mean to protect such awful acts. It is more likely they either failed to consider the worst of what was possible or rather hoped for the best when they failed to do something.
If nothing else let that tired, sick voice on the phone with Bob Costas serve as a first-person warning to everyone.
- Jerry Sandusky
- Bob Costas