Portions of the aired footage portrayed Paterno as unjustly roped into the case, and argued that while Sandusky "engaged in illegal behavior," the case against him was "remarkably weak" and that key witness Mike McQueary only saw "botched grooming." (Photo : Reuters)
NBC is in damage control after airing what the network billed as an "exclusive interview" with Jerry Sandusky revealed itself as a shameless plug for a conservative conspiracy theorist's film tacitly sympathizing with the convicted child molester. If NBC is this desperate to win back viewers amidst its flagging "Today" show ratings, the network might want to reexamine its use of "any publicity is good publicity" as company policy.
NBC had breathlessly advertised its Monday morning interview with Sandusky for a week, saying the exclusive would allow the sexual predator to "speak out for the first time since he went to prison," according to Gawker. Rather than conduct the interview itself, though, NBC simply aired a clip from infamous far-right filmmaker John Ziegler's short documentary, "The Framing of Joe Paterno."
Ziegler has stolen national headlines in the past for his polarizing "documentaries," including "Blocking The Path to 9/11" which held former President Bill Clinton was responsible for terrorist attacks, and "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected And Palin Was Targeted," which blamed Palin's loss on an mass liberal media conspiracy.
For "Paterno," Ziegler set out to clear the name of beloved veteran Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Of course, you wouldn't know that from his promotional interview on "Today." Portions of the aired footage portrayed Paterno as unjustly roped into the case, and argued that while Sandusky "engaged in illegal behavior," the case against him was "remarkably weak" and that key witness Mike McQueary - who asserted he saw Sandusky raping a boy in the school showers - only saw "botched grooming."
Host Matt Lauer questioned him four times about his thoughts on Sandusky before he eventually acknowledged that Sandusky was guilty of "many, if not all, of the things he was convicted of," adding the caveat that there were "errors of due process" in the Sandusky trial.
Ziegler said he predicted his documentary would be received with controversy.
"I know the media really well, Matt," he said, according to The Hufington Post. "I personally believe that the media ... they don't want to hear what the truth is. This has been a rush to judgment from the very beginning."
Ziegler attempted to defend his film and his position on the Sandusky last week on his blog. ""I made it very clear to everyone here, including Sandusky, that I am not supportive of him and some of my questions of him were actually much tougher than any he has ever faced," wrote Ziegler.
Paterno's family has already denounced the film, and said it wants nothing to do with Ziegler.
"Why would we oppose Ziegler's analysis if it credibly exonerated Dad? We oppose it b/c it seeks to do so with a false narrative," tweeted Paterno's son, Scott Paterno.
"Sandusky had the opportunity to speak under oath, during his trial and he chose not to do so. 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," said the Paterno family in a statement.
The statement added: "[The Paternos] believe that any attempt to use this recording as a defense of Joe Paterno is misguided and inappropriate."
At least two child advocacy groups - Child Advocate and Tree Climbers - have already openly derided NBC for airing the interview.