NBC sportscaster Bob Costas scores with Jerry Sandusky exclusive

TelevisionJerry SanduskyMike McQuearyFootballBob CostasEntertainment

For all the big journalists associated with Brian Williams' "Rock Center," it was sportscaster Bob Costas who put this self-important, over-promoted newsmagazine on the map Monday with his exclusive interview of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.

What a "get" for Costas, and what a superb job of getting to the heart of the matter by Costas with the man accused of sexually abusing boys as young as 10 years old in his capacity as coach and head of a foundation that purported to mentor adolescent boys.

I hope Williams, the bowing anchorman, paid attention to what a real interview looks and sounds like. And Costas did it over a phone no less - he didn't even have in-person access. A good reporter and interviewer can do wonders with a phoner -- and the kind of focus and intensity Costas brought to the table Monday night.

Here's how it went:


BOB COSTAS:
Mr. Sandusky, there's a 40-count indictment. The grand jury report contains specific detail. There are multiple accusers, multiple eyewitnesses to various aspects of the abuse. A reasonable person says where there's this much smoke, there must be plenty of fire. What do you say?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
I say that I am innocent of those charges.

BOB COSTAS:
Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
Well I could say that, you know, 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.

The follow-up of "innocent and falsely accused in every aspect" is textbook in how you push without going over the top. And Costas had just the right edge of incredulity in his voice -- without mocking or ridiculing Sandusky. And for all the former coach's claims of innocence, the admission Costas elicited here is revealing.

Costas pushed hard asking for a response to allegations that Sandusky told the mother of one of the boys he allegedly abused that, "I wish I could get forgiveness. I wish I were dead."

Sandusky said he didn't "recall" saying he wished he was dead. He didn't address the matter of allegedly asking for forgiveness.

And all praise to Costas for piling on the details of the alleged rape of a boy by Sandusky in the showers of the Penn State locker room. Those details needed to be there even if some viewers didn't want to hear them. (This is the rape described by a graduate assistant who is now an assistant coach on the football team.)

The straightforward, hard-edged recitation of details (which don't need to be repeated here) from Costas, made Sandusky's explanation of the boy turning on all the showers and sliding across the floor as they "snapped towels" sound fabricated, false and lame.

I have had nothing but contempt for "Rock Center" since the opening night segment in which Williams interviewed Jon Stewart. The problem wasn't that the two "were out of their element" or somehow "awkward" -- as many of my colleagues said.

No, the problem was the smug, inside-the-Manhattan-cocoon-of-media-power that Williams veritably oozed as he chatted up Stewart about whether his stockings were anchorman-high-enough on his calves or how his children went trick-or-treating in exclusive high-rise buildings.

I found Williams almost as detestable as CNN's Erin Burnett when he tried to get Stewart to share an inside laugh at the expense of the "drum circles" at Occupy Wall Street. Freeze frame Williams and his words in that moment and you have a portrait of why so many hate the media so much. He sucks up to the mighty (bowing to Obama), and mocks the dispossessed out on the streets at night trying to make their voices heard so far below his mighty perch at Rockefeller Center.

Costas redeemed all of that with his interview Monday night -- that's how good it was. I didn't even mind (too much) the patronizing tone with which Williams congratulated Costas.

Williams does have a lot of power by nature of his first-place ratings and dominance in evening news. He has the power to now give jobs to guys like Ted Koppel -- that's a lot of power.

But for all the big-name, broadcast news guys he and NBC News have been pounding the drums of promotion over the last few weeks, it was Costas, the sportscaster who already has all the work he can handle, who delivered the journalistic goods Monday.

Read my Nov. 5 interview with Costas here. It begins: 

Bob Costas is one of television’s most thoughtful and engaging sports commentators. His essays, analyses and interviews for NBC Sports are in a league of their own.

He understands the sociology and poetry of sports like few others – and is one of the reasons NBC’s Sunday Night football package is headed for a second straight year as the highest rated show on prime-time television ...

Here is the rest of the Costas interview with Sandusky, courtesy of NBC News:

BOB COSTAS:
Mr. Sandusky, there's a 40-count indictment. The grand jury report contains specific detail. There are multiple accusers, multiple eyewitnesses to various aspects of the abuse. A reasonable person says where there's this much smoke, there must be plenty of fire. What do you say?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
I say that I am innocent of those charges.

BOB COSTAS:
Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
Well I could say that, you know, 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. But - so if you look at it that way - there are things that wouldn't - you know, would be accurate.

BOB COSTAS:
Are you denying that you had any inappropriate sexual contact with any of these underage boys?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
Yes, I-- yes I am.

BOB COSTAS:
Never touched their genitals? Never engaged in oral sex?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
Right.

BOB COSTAS:
What about Mike McQueary, the grad assistant who in 2002 walked into the shower where he says in specific detail that you were forcibly raping a boy who appeared to be ten or 11 years old? That his hands were up against the shower wall and he heard rhythmic slap, slap, slapping sounds and he described that as a rape?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
I would say that that's false.

BOB COSTAS:
What would be his motive to lie?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
You'd have to ask him that.

BOB COSTAS:
What did happen in the shower the night that Mike McQueary happened upon you and the young boy?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
Okay, we-- we were showing and-- and horsing around. And he actually turned all the showers on and was-- actually sliding-- across the-- the floor. And we were-- as I recall possibly like snapping a towel, horseplay.

BOB COSTAS:
In 1998, a mother confronts you about taking a shower with her son and inappropriately touching him. Two detectives eavesdrop on a conversation with you, and you admit that maybe your private parts touched her son. What happened there?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
I can't exactly recall what was said there. In terms of-- what I did say was that if he felt that way, then I was wrong,

BOB COSTAS:
During one of those conversations, you said, "I understand, I was wrong, I wish I could get forgiveness," speaking now with the mother. "I know I won't get it from you. I wish I were dead." A guy falsely accused or a guy whose actions have been misinterpreted doesn't respond that way, does he?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
I don't know. I didn't say, to my recollection that I wish I were dead. I was hopeful that we could reconcile things.

BOB COSTAS:
Shortly after that in 2000, a janitor said that he saw you performing oral sex on a young boy in the showers-- in the Penn State locker facility. Did that happen?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
No.

BOB COSTAS:
How could somebody think they saw something as extreme and shocking as that when it hadn't occurred, and what would possibly be their motivation to fabricate it?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
You'd have to ask them.

BOB COSTAS:
It seems that if all of these accusations are false, you are the unluckiest and most persecuted man that any of us has ever heard about.

JERRY SANDUSKY:
(LAUGHS) I don't know what you want me to say. I don't think that these have been the best days of my life.

###

BOB COSTAS:
You said a few days ago much more is going to come out in our defense. In broad terms, what?

JOE AMENDOLA:
We expect we're going to have a number of kids. Now how many of those so-called eight kids, we're not sure. But we anticipate we're going to have at least several of those kids come forward and say this never happened. This is me. This is the allegation. It never occurred. In fact, one of the toughest allegations -- the McQueary violations -- what McQueary said he saw, we have information that that child says that never happened. Now grown up... now the person's in his twenties.

BOB COSTAS
Until now, we were told that that alleged victim could not be identified, you have iden--?

JOSEPH AMENDOLA:
By the commonwealth.

BOB COSTAS:
You have identified?

JOSEPH AMENDOLA:
We think we have

BOB COSTAS:
So you found him, the commonwealth has not?

JOSEPH AMENDOLA:
Interesting, isn't it?

BOB COSTAS:
Would you allow your own children to be alone with your client?

JOE AMENDOLA:
Absolutely. I believe in Jerry's innocence. Quite honestly, Bob, that's why I'm involved in the case.

BOB COSTAS:
You believe in his innocence?

JOE AMENDOLA:
His innocence.

###

BOB COSTAS:
To your knowledge did Joe Paterno at any time ever speak to you directly about your behavior?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
No.

BOB COSTAS:
Never?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
No.

BOB COSTAS:
He never asked you about what you might have done? He never asked you if you needed help? If you needed counseling?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
No. No.

BOB COSTAS:
Never? Never expressed disapproval of any kind?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
No.

BOB COSTAS:
How do you feel about what has happened to Penn State to Joe Paterno, and to the Penn State football program and your part in it?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
How would you think that I would feel about a university that I attended, about people that I've worked with, about people that I care so much about? And I mean how do you think I would feel about it? I feel horrible.

BOB COSTAS:
You feel horrible. Do you feel culpable?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
I'm not sure I know what you mean.

BOB COSTAS:
Do you feel guilty? Do you feel as if it's your fault?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
Guilty--?

BOB COSTAS:
This is your fault?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
No I don't think it's my fault. I've obviously played a part in this.

BOB COSTAS:
How would you define the part you played? What are you willing to concede that you've done that was wrong and you wish you had not done it?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
Well, in retrospect, I-- you know, I shouldn't have showered with those kids. You know

BOB COSTAS:
That's it?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
Well that-- yeah, that's what hits me the most.

BOB COSTAS:
Are you a pedophile?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
No.

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. But no I'm not sexually attracted to young boys.

BOB COSTAS:
Obviously you're entitled to a presumption of innocence and you'll receive a vigorous defense. On the other hand, there is a tremendous amount of information out there and fair-minded common sense people have concluded that you are guilty of monstrous acts. And they are particularly unforgiving with the type of crimes that have been alleged here. And so millions of Americans who didn't know Jerry Sandusky's name until a week ago now regard you not only as a criminal, but I say this I think in a considered way, but as some sort of monster. How do you respond to them?

JERRY SANDUSKY:
And I don't know what I can say or what I could say that would make anybody feel any different now. I would just say that if somehow people could hang out until my attorney has a chance to fight, you know, for my innocence. That’s about all I could ask right now. And you know, obviously, it's a huge challenge.



 

 

 

 

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TelevisionJerry SanduskyMike McQuearyFootballBob CostasEntertainment
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