Truth or Lie? Sandusky interview answers and the questions they raise


Did you catch the Bob Costas/Sandusky telephone interview last night as it aired on NBC? I did not but heard a rebroadcast on the radio this morning. If you didn’t hear it and you want to read it, follow this link.

Now, before I begin some exegetical questions, let me say that I am not a forensic psychologist and I don’t play one on TV. I have had graduate coursework on the topic, attended trainings, been supervised in juvenile and adult forensic cases by experts and benefited from the works of Anna Salter.

I also believe that how people answer may sometimes reveal clues to the truth. In other words, people can tell more truth than they intend as they try to lie. I am not saying that I know where Sandusky is lying. I do not. And TV shows that illustrate that “experts” can uncover lies in 30 minutes or less are fun but not particularly factual.

Disclaimers aside…check out some of these interesting exegetical problems (from the website above):

BOB COSTAS: Mr. Sandusky, there’s a 40-count indictment. The grand jury report contains specific detail. There are multiple accusers, multiple eyewitnesses to various aspects of the abuse. A reasonable person says where there’s this much smoke, there must be plenty of fire. What do you say?

JERRY SANDUSKY: I say that I am innocent of those charges.

BOB COSTAS: Innocent? Completely innocent and falsely accused in every aspect?

JERRY SANDUSKY: Well I could say that, you know, I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts.  I have hugged them and I have touched their leg.  Without intent of sexual contact. But — so if you look at it that way – there are things that wouldn’t — you know, would be accurate.       

“I could say that”? “So if you could look at it that way…”? These suggest that there are some creative ways to look at the facts and that Sandusky is trying to view them from some of these creative ways. Wouldn’t you expect that he would be very straight forward on what did happen. For him, there should be no two ways to view something.

Here’s the next pause I had:

BOB COSTAS: What about Mike McQueary, the grad assistant who in 2002 walked into the shower where he says in specific detail that you were forcibly raping a boy who appeared to be 10 or 11 years old? That his hands were up against the shower wall and he heard rhythmic slap, slap, slapping sounds and he described that as a rape?

JERRY SANDUSKY: I would say that that’s false.

Maybe I’m being picky but, “I would say,” sounds like he is shaping a response. Either it is true or it is false. Wouldn’t you want to shout, THAT IS A COMPLETE LIE, if someone made this false allegation about you? He seems to be saying more than just a denial of McQueary’s allegation. It sure sounds that he is shaping his own reality.

Later he is asked by Costas if he feels guilty for what is happening to all at Penn State. In fact, Costas asks him, he says he doesn’t know what Costas is asking. Costas clarifies with this:

BOB COSTAS: Do you feel guilty? Do you feel as if it’s your fault?

JERRY SANDUSKY: Guilty?

Does he still not get the question? Answering questions with questions is one way that some deflect. It takes a 3rd attempt before he can answer with a “no.”

Later there is this exchange with the same style, using a question to answer a question:

BOB COSTAS: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to underage boys?

JERRY SANDUSKY: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?

BOB COSTAS: Yes.

JERRY SANDUSKY: Sexually attracted, you know, I enjoy young people. I love to be around them. But no I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.

Again. Why would one even waffle here for a second. Did he not understand the question that he needed to repeat it? If he is not sexually attracted to boys then he can answer an emphatic NO. Other forms of attraction (filial, ministerial empathy) wouldn’t even come to mind as you deny the allegation.

One of the ways that people lie is that they spend far too much time parsing questions in order to answer truthfully one portion and to ignore another portion so they can comfort themselves with the feeling they are telling the truth.

Now, to be fair to Sandusky. I do not know if his answers reveal that he is lying or that he is just tense and having a hard time with the questions. All I do know is that he answers in a manner similar to those who are known to be lying. Repeat the question; “I would say”; “If you look at it that way”

Bottom line. When we lie, sometimes we tell on ourselves.

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1 Comment

Filed under Abuse, self-deception

One response to “Truth or Lie? Sandusky interview answers and the questions they raise

  1. Scott Knapp

    One tactic in responding by repeating the question might be to feign incredulity at the asking, as if to put the interviewer on the defensive by saying, “How could you ask me such a thing?!?” Since Sandusky is being interviewed by the media, and not being examined in a court room, he tailoring his answers in such a way as to most positively (in his estimation) score p0ints in the arena of public opinion.

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