Speaking to Bob Costas on Rock Center with Brian Williams on Monday night, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky denied he had “any inappropriate sexual contact” with children. “I have horsed around with kids,” Sandusky told Costas in a phone interview. “I have showered [with children] after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their leg without intent of sexual contact.”
The interview was quite a coup — if a seamily-detailed, grave coup — for the fledgling Rock Center. As a business move, you know this was scheduled by NBC to give Williams’ show, as opposed to its other news outlets, a big boost.
In a repulsive understatement, Sandusky said, “I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.” Sandusky denied specifically Mike McQueary’s charge that he witnessed Sandusky raping a young boy in a shower at the Nittany Lions training center in 2002. “The boy was sliding across the [shower] stall. I recall the snapping of a towel,” was all Sandusky recalled. Asked by Costas why McQueary would make the allegation he did, Sandusky replied, “You’d have to ask him.”
Costas told Sandusky he was now commonly considered “some sort of monster.” Sandusky asked “if somehow people could hang on until my attorney has a chance to fight for my innocence. It’s a huge challenge.”
Sandusky’s lawyer, Joe Amendola, was in the studio with Costas. He predicted, based on his investigation thus far, that “several of those kids [who’ve reportedly said they were abused by Sandusky] will come forward and say this never happened.” About the boy said to have been raped in McQueary’s account, the lawyer told Rock Center, “We have information what that child says, that never happened.” Amendola concluded, “I believe in [Sandusky’s] innocence.”
Watching Amendola, you didn’t wonder what his defense was going to be, but rather, what’s his game? How is he planning to manipulate whatever statements he’s going to gather from the accusers. The lawyer was smug about the idea that he has located the boy McQueary claims to have witnessed being raped while the police, Costas pointed out, say they have not. “Interesting, isn’t that?” said Amendola. It’s a game for this guy.
The careful parsing of Sandusky’s words suggested a man with reason to speak very carefully. The bolder statements of his lawyer — including the comment that Amendola would have no problem with his children spending time with Sandusky — stank of a defense case being built around future statements from potentially abused children that will be used to get Sandusky off the hook.
Innocent until proven guilty? Sure. But “”I shouldn’t have showered with those kids” is already an admission of a kind of guilt that’s enough to suggest that Sandusky deserves a combination of condemnation and pity.
Both Costas and Williams conducted themselves like the impartial journalists they needed to be in this context. Restraining any contempt for Sandusky, Costas allowed himself a bit of bitter understatement: If what you say is true, he said to the accused former coach, “you are the unluckiest and most persecuted man that any of us has heard about.”
“Rough content,” was how anchor Williams described the conversation we heard.
Nauseating, was more like it.
And so the defense begins, in the court of the public media. Sandusky and his legal team seem to be going all-in, with a remarkable display of confidence, arrogance, and whatever degree of truth they can wrest from this mess.