Former assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky tells the New York Times in an exclusive interview that legendary head coach Joe Paterno never confronted him about any suspected misconduct with minors. Despite the fact his last interview with Bob Costas didn't exactly paint him in a sympathetic light, Sandusky (and his lawyer) agreed to this interview (you can watch excerpts from it here) as a chance to defend himself, saying prosecutors had distorted his words: “They’ve taken everything that I ever did for any young person and twisted it to say that my motives were sexual or whatever," Sandusky said. "I had kid after kid after kid who might say I was a father figure. And they just twisted that all.”
Sandusky has been charged with 40 counts of molesting eight boys over 15 years. Over the course of the oddly-upbeat interview, Sandusky defends himself as a misunderstood father figure to children from the Second Mile charity. He described his house as a kind of second home for dozens of those kids, "a place where games were played, wrestling matches staged, sleepovers arranged, and from where trips to out-of-town sporting events were launched."
He called the children like an "extended family," characterized close experiences with kids as “precious times,” and dismissed the physical aspect of the relationships as “just [happening] that way.” He believes a lot of those kids "really reached out for" wrestling and hugging. He also described himself as a benevolent figure in the children's lives, saying he would reward kids "with a little money in hand, just so that they could see something."
Perhaps the most confusing part of the interview pertained to Paterno, the long-time Penn State football head coach who was fired after administrators determined he didn't go far enough in alerting authorities after an assistant coach said he told Paterno he saw Sandusky assaulting a young boy in the football building showers in March 2002. Sandusky says Paterno never talked to him about that incident, nor an earlier complaint of child molestation made against him in 1998 which Penn State investigated: “I never talked to him about either one. That’s all I can say. I mean, I don’t know.”
Sandusky added that he long worried Paterno thought his work with Second Mile was a distraction: “I would have dreams of we being in a squad meeting and that door fly open and kids come running through chasing one another, and what was I going to do? Because, I mean, Joe was serious about football."
Another strange moment in the interview came when Sandusky was asked about his stilted, awkward phone interview with Costas on NBC, during which Costas asked him whether he was a pedophile and was sexually attracted to young boys. After repeating the question slowly, he answered at the time, "Sexually attracted, you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no I'm not sexually attracted to young boys." He told the Times his reaction to the question was misunderstood, a response which had to be further clarified by his lawyer:
I was sitting there thinking, 'what in the world is this question?' You know, what, am I gonna be, if I say 'no I'm not attracted to boys,' that's not the truth, because I'm attracted to young people, boys, girls—
[His lawyer interrupts: "Yeah, but not sexual, you're attracted because you enjoy spending time..."]
Yeah, I enjoy spending time with young people, I enjoy spending time with people. My two favorite groups are the elderly and the young. The young because they don't think about what they say, and the old because they don't care. So I love being around both groups of people. And neither one of them are going anywhere, they're not caught up like all of us, in trying to make a living, in trying to impress people. They are who they are. And that's why I love those groups.