John Ziegler is at it again.
In a much-touted Today show interview Monday morning, the conservative radio host and documentary filmmaker revealed excerpts from a jailhouse interview with convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky which he claims will help exonerate the late Joe Paterno, the famed Penn State football coach whose role in the sexual-abuse scandal ended his career.
The Daily Beast breaks down Ziegler and Sandusky’s claims—and whether you should believe them.
1. Mike McQueary Was Coerced
Ziegler’s biggest beef is with Mike McQueary, the former assistant football coach who testified in front of a grand jury that he witnessed Sandusky raping a boy, known was Victim No. 2, in the campus locker room in 2001. But Ziegler claims that McQueary may have misremembered the incident in the 10 years that passed before he gave testimony. Ziegler also claimed the prosecution was “desperate” to bring charges against Sandusky and “they might twist [McQueary’s] arm a little bit.” Today host Matt Lauer pressed Ziegler about McQueary’s motives. “Did [McQueary] want to end up infamous and unemployed?” Lauer asked. (The answer is yes). Ziegler replied that he didn’t know for sure if McQueary was lying.
2. McQueary Has a Dirty Mind
In one of the tapes from the prison interviews, Sandusky says, “I don’t understand how anyone would have walked into that locker room from where he was and heard sounds and associated that there was sex was going on.” After laughing, Sandusky says, “That would have been the last thing I would have thought about—I would have thought fooling around or something like that.” In a transcript posted on Ziegler’s website, Ziegler claims Sandusky admitted he had no recollection or knowledge of seeing McQueary there—and Sandusky claims he and McQueary would speak “cordially” after 2001. McQueary’s father declined to comment to the Associated Press regarding the allegations.
3. Victim No. 2 Once Said Sandusky’s Accusers ‘Were Not to Be Believed’
This one, if true, would be a big revelation. Ziegler knows the identity of Victim No. 2—which NBC did not reveal—and claims that he has on-the-record documentation of the man saying in 2011 that “the accusers of Jerry Sandusky are not to be believed and that Jerry Sandusky was the greatest thing that ever happened to him.” Although Ziegler seems to believe that the case hinged solely on Victim No. 2’s testimony, there were nine other accusers, plus Sandusky’s adopted son Matt Sandusky.
4. Paterno Had No Idea
Since Ziegler is trying to clear Paterno’s name, it’s not too surprising that Sandusky speaks kindly of the head coach in the interview excerpts. Sandusky insists Paterno—who had been known as a saint at Penn State before the allegations—would not have let Sandusky be a coach if he knew Sandusky was a pedophile. But Sandusky does admit that “if [Paterno] had a suspicion? I don’t have an answer for that.”
5. Buzz Bissinger Is the World’s Worst Journalist
This one is not in the Today interview, but on the website for Ziegler’s film, Framing Paterno. In a poll (who, and how many respondents there were, is unclear), ESPN is named as having done “the worst job” in covering the whole affair with 71 percent of the vote. In second place is The Daily Beast’s own Buzz Bissinger, one of the earliest and fiercest critics of Penn State. In a separate blog post, Ziegler calls Bissinger “a disgrace to journalism and humanity.” Given the response to Bissinger’s columns, it seems like Ziegler is alone in this opinion.