Who’ll Be Fired at the Today Show or NBC for Sandusky Interview?
As is often the case when the most hated man in America is the focus of a nationally televised news segment, NBC’s decision to air an interview with Jerry Sandusky on the Today Show was sure to be controversial.
But what they actually showed was much worse than that: It was a failure ethically, morally, journalistically and stylistically. It was bad journalism and even worse TV. On top of that, it was a total waste of time, giving us zero insight into the Sandusky case and doing nothing but aggrandizing an agenda-driven professional troll.
NBC and Today have caught a ton of heat for the interview, every bit of it totally deserved.
Leave aside that NBC spent the weekend promoting an “exclusive interview,” with “Sandusky in his own words.” That implied that Matt Lauer or another NBC News reporter had gone to the prison, spoken with Sandusky on camera, and either gotten a confession from Sandusky or some other newsworthy bit of information related to the case.
That’s not what it was at all. The “interview” was actually brought to NBC by John Ziegler, the unemployed conservative radio host turned anti-media filmmaker. Ziegler recently conducted several hours of jailhouse interviews with Sandusky as part of the documentary he’s making, “Framing Paterno” arguing that Joe Paterno did nothing wrong, and there was no cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes.
So NBC got into bed with someone who was coming at the material with a clear agenda and ax to grind—and a pretty weird one, at that. “If you’re a sleazy filmmaker with footage of a convicted child rapist,” writer and TV personality Frank Conniff joked on Facebook Monday, “the Today Show would love to hear from you!”
The second-hand, audio-only “exclusive interview” lasted less than a minute, and Sandusky said nothing of note and made no news. But even if he had, it wouldn’t matter, because Sandusky probably has the least credibility of any man on planet Earth. NBC’s airing of Bob Costas’ interview with Sandusky in 2011 was different—it was the early days of the story, Sandusky hadn’t been tried yet, and what he had to say in his defense was actually newsworthy at the time, especially when he botched the interview in horrific fashion.
The biggest problem with the Today segment is that Ziegler is seeking to use Jerry Sandusky, America’s most notorious convicted child rapist, to discredit the testimony of Mike McQueary, a witness for the prosecution who’s been accused of no crime. It would be like a lawyer calling a serial killer to the stand in order to impeach the credibility of a guy who may have gotten too many speeding tickets.
Matt Lauer was probably the one person who came out of the episode looking the better, admirably standing up to Ziegler, changing the subject from Paterno to the victims every time it was brought up, and scuttling Ziegler’s despicable idea of revealing the name of one of Sandusky’s victims on the air.
Note that when Philly Post reporter Simon Van Zuylen-Wood covered a local meeting of Paterno truthers in January, Ziegler told him:
My only thought on the victims. And I can’t stand, every time I do a media appearance, you almost have to spend the first 30 seconds saying, “Sandusky’s guilty, I’m sorry about the victims,” and all that business, which is political correctness run amok.
According to a Radar Online report Tuesday, Lauer is “furious” with his producers for assigning him the segment.
Even the Paterno family has loudly distanced themselves from Ziegler’s recent behavior, including his dubious use of the Sandusky interview.
Today should never have aired Ziegler’s Sandusky interview. Doing so is the kind of decision that should get executive producers, if not network presidents, fired.