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Editor: Sandusky ‘Probably Did Himself More Harm Than Good’ in Costas Interview

November 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
In a startling move Monday, Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator accused of sexually abusing children, defended himself in a telephone interview with Bob Costas on NBC. Margret Warner discusses the scandal's continuing fallout with David Newhouse, editor of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa.
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MARGARET WARNER: Now an update on the Penn State storm, as the man at the center of it speaks out.

In a startling move, Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coach accused of child sex abuse, defended himself publicly last night. In a telephone interview, NBC’s Bob Costas grilled Sandusky about the particulars in the 40-count indictment charging he abused eight boys over 15 years.

JERRY SANDUSKY, charged with sexually abusing children: I say that I am innocent of those charges.

BOB COSTAS, NBC Sports: Innocent, completely innocent, and falsely accused in every aspect?

JERRY SANDUSKY: Well, I could say that I have done some of those things. 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.

BOB COSTAS: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?

JERRY SANDUSKY: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?

BOB COSTAS: Yes.

JERRY SANDUSKY: Sexually attracted? You know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. I — I — but, no, I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.

MARGARET WARNER: There was also word of new accusations. The New York Times reported nearly 10 more alleged victims have come forward since the Nov. 5 indictment.

The scandal has sent shockwaves through the university. Last week, the board fired legendary head football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State president Graham Spanier. Athletic director Tim Curley and the vice president for business and finance, Gary Schultz, have stepped down. Both face charges of perjury and failing to report a crime.

An assistant coach, Mike McQueary, has been placed on administrative leave. He told a grand jury that in 2002 he witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in a shower and reported it to Paterno. On Monday, NBC News reported that McQueary had emailed friends, insisting he did the right thing and made sure the assault stopped.

There’s also been fallout at The Second Mile, Sandusky’s charity to benefit needy children. Its CEO stepped down over his failure to cut off Sandusky’s access to kids or report to authorities after being told about the 2002 incident. All of which led Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett this weekend to urge tightening state law on who has responsibility to report sexual abuse of minors.

GOV. TOM CORBETT, R-Pa.: Should the law be changed? Absolutely. I know that members of both parties, Republican and Democrat, have already introduced measures to make that change. And we have to make sure that the change in the law is one that is effective.

MARGARET WARNER: In the meantime, the police investigation continues, and Penn State has begun its own inquiry led by trustee Ken Frazier, head of Merck Pharmaceuticals. And Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey called today for a Senate hearing on how federal laws might apply in the case.

And we hope to have more on the continuing fallout later in the program.

And we come back to the Penn State story.

For that, we’re joined by David Newhouse, editor of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. His newspaper broke the story of the grand jury investigation into Sandusky.

And, welcome, Mr. Newhouse.

This was a pretty remarkable event last night. With Jerry Sandusky’s own lawyer’s approval and participation, he took very pointed questions on the specifics of some of the charges. What have you been able to learn about — what’s the legal strategy behind that?

DAVID NEWHOUSE, The Patriot-News: Well, it’s very hard to know that. His attorney, Joe Amendola, has not specifically said what he intended.

We can only presume that he was trying to somehow sort of stanch the bleeding of the relentless negative publicity that we have all been experiencing since last Friday. The problem is, he probably did himself more harm than good.

As we just saw in what you showed before, Sandusky admitted to showering with kids, horsing around, touching them, hugging them. Some of these things, he actually writes about in his 2000 autobiography, which is is, ironically, called “Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story,” but, obviously, without the showering.

And all day long, experts in child sex abuse have been saying that these are classic entry types of behavior for sex abuse. It’s really incredible that he was allowed to go on “Bob Costas” and say those things.

MARGARET WARNER: Has there been widespread reaction in the Penn State community, and what has it been?

DAVID NEWHOUSE: I think people are simply incredulous at the scope of this — of the allegations.

People have also been incredulous that Jerry Sandusky is simply walking around town. He is out on $100,000 in unsecured bail. The prosecution had asked for half-a million in bail and an electronic anklet monitor. And they were denied that. It’s been said he is going around time. He bought a treadmill this week, and almost acting as if nothing is happening or nothing is wrong.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, Sandusky’s lawyer told interviewers last night and again today that they may be able to refute some of the allegations in the grand jury report by turning to some of the alleged victims themselves.

What can you tell us about that?

DAVID NEWHOUSE: Well, the victims have — they all told their stories to the grand jury. So, the only exception are, there are two cases where there were eyewitness accounts, but the victims have not come forward.

And in one of those cases, Sandusky’s attorney, Joe Amendola, said that he had located this boy — this is from the 2002 incident allegedly witnessed by Mike McQueary — and that he was going to say that nothing hatched. We will see if it happens.

But even if it does, there are six victims who came and testified before the grand jury.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, has your newspaper, have your reporters been able to yet confirm what The New York Times reported today, which is there are up to 10 more, at least, alleged victims who have come forward to authorities since the news broke?

DAVID NEWHOUSE: We haven’t confirmed that specific number.

We have heard that more people have — more kids have come forward. The state police have only confirmed one. It remains to be seen how many of them actually become part of the case. Because someone comes forward doesn’t mean they will be added to the case.

But it’s clear and it’s been clear since the beginning that more victims will come forward and that the eight victims alleged in the — by the grand jury were not going to be all of them.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, there’s been a big firestorm over the role of Mike McQueary. And in the grand jury report, it says he told the grand jury that he witnessed this 2002 assault in the shower.

What’s the significance of the email that he sent out we reported on to his — to his — I guess it was his players on Monday night. And what, in general, new is there on his role?

DAVID NEWHOUSE: Well, I think, first of all, there’s a misunderstanding about what a grand jury report or presentment is.

A grand jury hears testimony for months and months. In this case, almost — well, more than two years. They condense that testimony into, in this case, 23 pages. There are some quotes in it, but there is a lot of summary. So, in this instance, Mike McQueary told the grand jury that he had witnessed Jerry Sandusky in a shower at the Penn State locker rooms with this boy, sexually assaulting him.

And the grand jury report simply says he left and told his father. They went to Joe Paterno, and then it kind of got kicked up the chain of command to university officials.

What McQueary — what the NBC — email that NBC got yesterday said that McQueary was telling friends that he didn’t simply run away. Now, The Patriot-News has actually obtained a different email, and this is — we actually just posted this story on our website, PennLive.com — that is actually even more — more explicit.

He sent this email early last week to a friend, expressing tremendous frustration that what the grand jury report said, which is a very abbreviated version of testimony, was somehow interpreted that that was all he did. And he says specifically in the email that he — he didn’t necessarily physically stop Sandusky — that is, he didn’t necessarily wade in, like a Hollywood movie hero and slug him — but that he absolutely stopped the conduct before he left that locker room, and that also he later talked to university police; he didn’t just kick it up the chain of command to other officials, but he himself reported it to university police.

MARGARET WARNER: Finally, and fairly briefly, I’m sorry to say, the university itself and its institutional — its situation here, are they worried about sort of institutional or legal liability? And what is this investigation that they’re running designed to achieve?

DAVID NEWHOUSE: That’s a very good question.

There are a lot of people who have criticized the fact that the university is conducting its own investigation. They have said they will bring in outside counsel, but they have not brought an independent group in.

I think they’re mostly looking at university policies. They have said this isn’t — they’re not looking at criminal behavior. They’re looking at how the university runs. And that really is going to be, once it gets beyond the criminal case of Sandusky, a huge question for Penn State. What kind of culture really allowed this kind of thing, allegedly, to go on for so long?

MARGARET WARNER: David, David Newhouse, editor of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, thanks so much.