I did not watch the TODAY Show interview of Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is certainly a character and he makes for great television. Yet while I have no problem with NBC running the interview, I cannot help but think that this is just an attempt to cash in on sensationalizing child rape to boost the TODAY Show’s falling ratings. NBC could do better than that.
I am not the only one who took issue with the interview. Christopher Anderson, the Executive Director of MaleSurvivor, released a statement about it. In part:
By airing these interviews, and capitalizing on the ensuing storm of controversy unleashed by this announcement, NBC and [independent filmmaker John Ziegler] have chosen to give national exposure for a second time to a child rapist whose indisputable guilt on over 40 counts of sexual abuse of children was unanimously agreed upon by a jury of his peers.
These interviews have no independent news value, and will publicize and quite likely provide additional funding to Ziegler’s independent project. It should be noted that members of the Paterno family have disavowed any connection to this project. Airing these clips will re-victimize some of the survivors of Sandusky’s crimes. It also serves as highly unethical harassment by Sandusky of his victims. Further, it serves to give credence to Ziegler, who has publicly proclaimed his doubts that Sandusky’s behavior constituted sexual abuse against victim #2.
I do not agree entirely with the statement. While I do agree that NBC wants to get a ratings boost, Ziegler’s position is simply that Penn State threw Joe Paterno under the bus. His interview with Sandusky and his questioning of Victim #2’s responses to authorities all work to prove that theory. As Ziegler put it in a Daily Beast interview:
“Since when is you interviewing someone an indication that you are teaming up with them or on their side? I got Sandusky to admit to things he’s never confessed to before. I brought him to tears with my questions,” Ziegler said, his voice rising as he spoke. Ziegler is puzzled by the family reaction, since he says he devised specific questions for Sandusky with the help of a former FBI pedophile profiler working with the Paternos.
“The notion that there is something wrong with interviewing the primary character in this Greek tragedy is beyond me,” he said.
I do not agree with his position, although I would like to see the evidence he collected. I would agree, however, that there is nothing wrong with asking questions, nor does doing an interview with someone mean you support them. That reaction is unfair.
We will have to wait and see what Ziegler’s film shows. Meanwhile, I wonder what good Sandusky’s interview did. We already know he thinks he is innocent. We already know he thinks everyone conspired against him. We already know that he thinks the world of Paterno. What new thing did people gleam from the interview?