When disgraced coach Jerry Sandusky, who is currently embroiled in a child rape scandal, phoned in to “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” interviewer Bob Costas was caught relatively off-guard. One might normally like the chance to prepare for such an interview, given the sensitive nature of the subject and the public’s interest in the case, but Costas worked on the fly.
Costas spoke to the New York Times about the interview, which was Sandusky’s first since the allegations against him went public and he became a hot topic across every media platform. “About 10 or 15 minutes prior to the start of the interview, [Sandusky’s attorney Joseph] Amendola says to us, on his own: ‘What if I could get Sandusky on the phone?'” Costas recalls.
Now, Sandusky’s statements in the interview — including admitting to “horsing around” with young boys, showering with them, and touching them — could potentially be used against him in a court of law.
“Some of the preparation I had done for the Amendola interview informed the questions I asked Sandusky, but I had not specifically prepared to interview Sandusky. Some of the questions were just obvious and they occurred to me as I
spoke to him. But because he was not there, you’re not seeing his face,
it was important to listen intently.”
At one particularly jarring moment in the interview, Costas asked Sandusky if he was sexually attracted to young boys. Sandusky paused and repeated the question to himself. “Am I sexually attracted to underage boys? Sexually attracted? I enjoy
young people, I love to be around them. Um, I, I — but no, I’m not
sexually attracted to young boys,” Sandusky replied.
“People can and should reach their own conclusion. Many people told me they were struck by that,” Costas says now. “My feeling is, here is a story that is in some respects lurid, but it is
also a legitimate news story. And if you can treat it like a news story
without a lot of histrionics, then you can keep it where it belongs –
as a legitimate news story. And not have it cross over into something
that’s tabloid. I have a personal aversion to the latter. The former, no
matter how rough the subject matter, is legitimate.”