NBC News was criticized Monday morning for airing and promoting a right-wing documentarian’s interview with convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky.
On Monday, the family of Sandusky’s supervisor, deceased Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, said in a release that the airing of excerpts from documentarian John Ziegler’s interview with Sandusky on The Today Show, were “a sad and unfortunate statement.”
“Sandusky had the opportunity to speak, under oath, during his trial and he chose not to do so,” the family said. “Releasing a recording at this time, nearly a year after he was found guilty on 45 counts, is transparently self-serving and yet another insult to the victims and anyone who cares about the truth in this tragic story.”
In his own interview with Today Show host Matt Lauer, Ziegler accused the media of slamming him in order to avoid hearing what he said is the truth Paterno.
“This has been a rush to judgement from the very beginning,” said Ziegler, who interviewed Sandusky as part of a project he claimed will amount to Paterno’s “public day in court” regarding allegations he was part of a school cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes. “I know that I’m gonna get attacked from everybody because no one wants the truth here.”
Think Progress reported on Sunday that Ziegler has also been advising Steubenville High School football coach Reno Saccoccia. Two of Saccoccia’s players, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were convicted on March 17 of raping a 16-year-old girl in August 2012. Testimony during the trial indicated that Saccoccia was aware of the crime.
“I am at least as certain that Reno Saccoccia was not culpable in the crimes of his players as I am in Joe Paterno’s lack of blame for those of his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky,” Ziegler wrote on his website on March 19.
However, Ziegler was reluctant to tell Lauer whether he thought Sandusky’s conviction was justified.
“After over a year of examining this case, after your conversations with Jerry Sandusky in person or by phone, do you believe he was wrongly convicted?” Lauer asked.
“Jerry Sandusky already had his day in court,” Ziegler began.
“But do you believe he was wrongly convicted?” Lauer pressed.
“I’ve written extensively about this at our website,” Ziegler said. “But I wanted to say that my focus here has been on Joe Paterno.”
“I understand, but it helps me with perspective hearing the interview,” Lauer interjected.
“Jerry Sandusky had his day in court,” Ziegler said again. “Joe Paterno never did. I’m trying to get Joe Paterno, effectively, his day in court.”
Lauer pressed on, asking, “But do you believe Jerry Sandusky is a pedophile and he’s guilty of the things he was accused of?”
“I’ve no doubt that Jerry Sandusky was guilty of many of the things, if not all the things, he was accused of,” Ziegler conceded. “But I do believe that there were due process problems with the trial.”
Ziegler also excitedly told Lauer that he had obtained a statement by one of Sandusky’s victims saying that the victim denied any wrongdoing on the part of the coach.
“Let’s remember something: Victim number two never testified in the case against Jerry Sandusky,” Lauer rebutted. “So his credibility never directly impacted the trial. The jurors never heard from victim number two.”
“That’s what’s quite remarkable about this,” Ziegler said, before returning to his point that his documentary focused on Paterno’s alleged culpability.
Later in the interview, Lauer read from the Paterno family’s statement, telling Ziegler that they felt that it was important to emphasize they had no part in the release of Ziegler’s interview with Sandusky, and that “any attempt to use this recording as a defense of Joe Paterno is misguided and inappropriate.”
“Well that statement I found to be sad,” Ziegler said. “Heartbreaking for me, considering I put a year of my life into this with no compensation, no thought of compensation. [I] only wanted to do one thing, which was to find out what the truth of this matter was, which was Joe Paterno’s dying wish.”
As Think Progress reported, Ziegler’s past projects accuse the media of “targeting” former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and blame former president Bill Clinton for the Sept. 11th attacks on New York and Washington D.C.
Watch Ziegler’s interview with Lauer, aired Monday on NBC, below.