“Well, in retrospect, I — you know, I shouldn’t have showered with those kids. You know.”
That’s what former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, accused of molesting several young boys, told Bob Costas Monday night.
It’s one of those awful phrases that will echo in infamy for quite some time. It’s right up there with every grotesque non-admission admission.
That was what the whole interview was, in fact. Grotesque. Costas has been rightly praised for his professionalism, asking the difficult questions with politeness if not without disgust. But who wanted to hear from Jerry Sandusky?
There seems to be little grace available to this man at this point. I thought there was no way Jerry Sandusky could make us think less of him. But he proved me wrong: All he has to do is continue talking.
There are few bad choices that are not made worse by appearing in public to comment on them. Perhaps this is my Scandinavian heritage talking. This heritage gives you the idea that nothing whatsoever is made better by talking about it. “I think I may have a feeling,” I would say. “Eat lutefisk,” my parents answered, “and the thing will pass.”
Some news conferences are unavoidable. But this is hardly one of them.
I ask merely for information. Is anyone, these days, capable of shutting up? If Sandusky can’t, perhaps no one can. When the robber streaks away into the night or the killer comes, we seem to call a press conference before we call the police. There is no bad, just bad publicity.
Why is this man is being allowed on the air at all, to talk to anyone? What was his lawyer thinking? Are they, as some suggest, poisoning the jury pool? The quotes did him no favors. As Joel Achenbach pointed out, who has to pause and restate the question before saying: “Sexually attracted, you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no I’m not sexually attracted to young boys”?
It’s grotesque. It rings up there with Michael Jackson, telling a news crew: “Why can’t you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone. It’s very charming. It’s very sweet. It’s what the whole world should do.”
What is this man still doing in the public eye? Look, if anyone wants to hear more from him, there’s his woefully titled autobiography, “Touched.” But who does?
Yet somehow from the start, he hasn’t been invisible. Days ago, there was footage of him amiably not answering the questions of a TV news reporter. He keeps thrusting himself on us. And every appearance shows him in a less flattering light. “Horsing around”? Please, please stop.
Time was, when someone humiliated himself, enraged an entire community, and destroyed multiple young lives, he was shamed into silence. Even Shakespearean villains occasionally shut up. “Demand me nothing. What you know, you know. From this time forth I never will speak word,” Iago says. For once, the devil has some good advice.
But these days, silence seems a fate worse than death. Keep talking. Keep denying. Keep the cameras rolling to catch the grotesque show.