10 Questions With Filmmaker John Ziegler
More than three years since the story broke, the tensions around the Jerry Sandusky scandal continue on. Documentary filmmaker, radio talk show host, and creator of www.FramingPaterno.com John Ziegler has been at the forefront of the conversation since the beginning. We caught up with John again this year to see what he’s saying these days and to get an update on his old fling Christine Brennan.
Note: The name of Victim 2 has been removed from the responses in two places to conform with the policy of not identifying victims of sexual assault, in this case, post conviction. We sincerely apologize for the editing error.
Onward State: It’s been more than a year since we last spoke. What is the biggest “revelation” or piece of evidence to come out of the Sandusky mess during the game?
John Ziegler: There have been many things which have been learned in the last year which have been ignored by the moronic media. They wrongly think they already know what happened in this case and therefore stopped putting the data points together the moment that Louis Freeh stepped off his podium to the cheers from local trial lawyers.
In just the last week, I released at www.FramingPaterno.com an interview with a former close friend of Aaron Fisher (Victim 1) and his father who both contradict key parts of Fisher’s story and don’t believe he told the truth about Jerry Sandusky. I also released a devastating email from the woman who tried to kill herself with Matt Sandusky which basically proves he is lying about that as well. It was also learned that another false accuser promoted by the same Rolling Stone reporter who blew the UVA case was represented by the same lawyer as Aaron Fisher.
But by far the most important thing which we happened in the last year is that Aaron Fisher’s former stepfather, Eric Daniels, was charged with over 100 counts of child molestation (including against his own child) in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Jerry Sandusky had told Joe Amendola well before this development that he thought Daniels may have molested Aaron. If that happened and Aaron projected that abuse onto Jerry, then the whole case literally falls apart. If that didn’t happen, it is one of the most remarkable coincidences of all time. In a rational world the media would be all over this. Instead I am unaware of even one outlet which has even made the obvious connection.
Onward State: Your main narrative seems to have changed from defending Paterno to defending Sandusky, which is obviously a much much smaller (almost nonexistent) group. Why the change?
John Ziegler: Inherent in your question seems to be the presumption that I give a damn how many people I am appealing to. Since I have never been involved in a commercial endeavor here (nor do I care about being popular), thankfully I do not. Joe Paterno said on his death bed that he wanted the truth of this matter. He didn’t say “go find a truth with will appeal to the largest group of people” or “go find a truth which the media might accept as politically correct enough to fit into their preferred narrative.” I have no connection to Penn State but I felt he at least deserved the truth. That has been my only goal here. I have been extremely disappointed that many of his supporters have only pretended to honor that simple request.
I presumed at the start that Jerry Sandusky was guilty because everyone said that he was. After I interviewed him in prison I realized that presumption was in grave doubt. After I interviewed him a second time along with his wife Dottie, I was almost positive he was innocent. Today, I am about as sure he is innocent of the criminal charges as I am O.J. Simpson was guilty. In fact, this whole case is the direct inverse of the Simpson case.
I did not want to come to this conclusion. In fact, I fought it every day for about a year. In the end, I had no choice. Everyone who told me he was guilty (people like Jim Clemente and Scott Paterno) I presumed were telling me the truth, but I learned from personal experience that they were obvious frauds. Conversely, I assumed everyone who told me he was innocent was insane, but they all turned out to be telling me the truth.
BTW, you are badly misinformed if you think the group of people who think Jerry is innocent is “nonexistent.” The closer to the case you get the more likely someone is to believe he is innocent. I have spoken to many prominent people (including several media members and Jay Paterno) who have told me that they don’t believe Jerry is guilty, they just are too afraid to express these beliefs publicly because that position is so toxic. Of course this reality should be the first sign, at least to a thinking person, that something here is very wrong.
Onward State: A lot of people say that if there was only one person coming forward claiming abuse they would be more inclined to agree with you on that point. Instead, 8 people testified and 30+ came forward to sue Penn State. What would you say to people who believe it is impossible, or at least extremely unlikely, for that many people to be lying?
John Ziegler: That is a great question because there is no doubt that is the number one obstacle in people accepting what I now believe is clearly the only remotely rational scenario in this case. The question I always ask back is: can you please tell me one of the accusers in which you are very confident? No one, and I mean no one, EVER answers that question because there is simply no good response, especially now that Aaron Fisher’s story is so suspect.
There are two other ways I would like for people to think about your question. First, there were only six human beings claiming “abuse” before Penn State fired Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier making it exceedingly obvious that Penn State would be writing big checks to accusers (though I would suggest that the hint of that possibility was in the air long before that). Of those six, only two claimed “sex” and both of them have HUGE problems with their story and used the same therapist. Therefore, only two people have to be “lying” and five (including Mike McQueary) have to have been manipulated into exaggerating their story. That is not a huge leap at all.
Secondly, if none of these people had profited from their story I would say the numbers would have weight, but since every single one of them has either sued or settled for huge sums against an entity which had NOTHING to do with their alleged crimes, I don’t see why the number has any significance at all. In fact, considering the thousands of kids with whom Jerry interacted, I am amazed it isn’t a much larger number. People seem to be pretending that these nameless people who didn’t testify at trial have remotely credible stories. The prosecution chose Victims 9 & 10 from the post-Paterno-firing pool of accusers and those two were a complete joke. Basic logic dictates that the rest of their “bench” was even worse than them.
Onward State: Who do you think is the biggest “villain” in this whole situation (specifically, not just the media in general)?
John Ziegler: There are so many villains in this story that I would like to break it down into a few categories. The person who has done the most evil and KNOWS that he has (some accusers may actually believe that Jerry molested them) is clearly Matt Sandusky. He is a sociopath and his inevitable meltdown will reveal that to the world (if anyone pays attention).
The people who deserve the most blame on the “good” side for how this whole thing went down are Mike McQueary and Scott Paterno. They screwed up in very different ways but they are unquestionably aligned (at least they were when it mattered) in their self interest in having the myth of the shower episode accepted as reality. I believe Mike was manipulated because of his own vulnerabilities (which I proved ESPN censored from their profile of him) and Scott bought into the myth long before he should have, thus dictating the Paterno “response” in ways which have had tragic results for everyone involved.
On the PSU-BOT, it was clearly John Surma. Among the plaintiff attorneys, Andrew Shubin. As for the OAG, Jonelle Eshbach was clearly the person who pushed the case far beyond where it should have gone and likely played a key role in the writing of the fraudulent grand jury presentment. As for the media, its obviously Sara Ganim as she was clearly working directly for the prosecution, which is why, incredibly, she has never written a book. Among the former players, I say it is Matt Millen because should have known better and he dramaticly sold out his own school/coach so that he could look good while diverting attention away from his own ties to the Second Mile.
Onward State: I’ve heard more than one person say, “You know, I’d be more inclined to agree with John Ziegler if he wasn’t such an asshole about what he’s trying to say.” You are undoubtedly aware of some sort of stigma. What would you say to those people?
John Ziegler: This question makes me laugh for three reasons. First, I wish someone could at least give me a specific example of how I have been an “asshole.” Second, the irony is that some of my biggest regrets in this whole deal have been times when I have been WAY too NICE! Third, I truly believe that this is the last bastion of people who can’t come up with any holes in my argument but who simply don’t WANT to believe what I am saying because it makes them feel uncomfortable or bad about themselves for having been so easily duped.
I guess I should have almost single-handedly gone to war to undo the greatest injustice in modern American history (with basically no resources) by saying, “Gee, ah, maybe, if you don’t mind, you could please take a look at this? Pretty please?” But that would have been even less effective than my “tactics” have been. It is easy to criticize from the sidelines (especially without specifics), but no one ever thinks about what never happens without me being aggressive. I also simply can’t figuratively “scream bloody murder,” without literally screaming bloody murder.
Onward State: Regardless, the biggest hit on your reputation is undoubtedly the fact that you admitted to once “sort of briefly” dating USA Today columnist Christine Brennan. We noticed that flame was rekindled this summer. Tell us how that conversation went.
John Ziegler: Very funny. Christine, who has been one of Joe Paterno’s biggest critics, and I have had a very strange relationship. We were once very close and I had quite an impact on her career. It was quite ironic that we met at the PGA Championship because I had convinced her in early 1997 to start covering golf because of the dawning of the Tiger Woods era. Here we were at a tournament prior to which I had predicted in the local paper would be seen as the end of the Tiger Woods era.
I spoke to Christine for about an hour and half during the rain delay that Sunday. I probably spoke for 85 of the 90 minutes. I was not an “asshole,” but instead tried to tell her what the evidence suggests really did and did not happen in this case while focusing mostly on Paterno. I have no idea how much of an impact I made, but I am positive she was engaged and listening intently. I also know that she has never written about the subject again and that her friend Sally Jenkins has seemingly flipped back somewhat towards Paterno’s side. I am confident that if Christine took a lie detector test that she would no longer be able to say that Joe Paterno was guilty of any immorality in this saga. She is one of many prominent media members who I continue to try and lobby both publicly and privately.
Onward State: What are your predictions for the next 1, 3, and 10 years down the road as it relates to Penn State and the narrative you are trying to guide? Will there be any progress? What’s the best plausible scenario?
John Ziegler: My predictions in my previous two “Ten Questions” have been pretty good, so I will try to keep up that record.
I believe that in 2015 the charges against the Penn State administrators will be dropped, likely on a late Friday afternoon of a holiday (Memorial Day?) weekend.
I believe that sometime soon the NCAA will restore Joe Paterno’s wins. The timing on this is difficult to predict. If the NCAA decides to settle to avoid depositions it could be very soon. If they decide not to cave and fight it all the way, then that could take three years. That whole thing will be fought over the use of one word: sorry.
I believe that eventually some sort of official Joe Paterno statue will be restored somewhere on campus. This will probably happen just after the 10-year anniversary of the story.
I believe that when Jerry Sandusky dies in prison and after their money runs out, that some of the accusers will begin to tell the real truth (led by the McQueary “victim”). However, it will take at least 20-25 years (when the current crop of media morons is gone) for this reality to be publicly accepted. If Dottie Sandusky is still alive, she will then be deciding what the new name of Penn State University will be (the Jerry Sandusky School of Due Process perhaps?).
Onward State: What’s the biggest thing the media has gotten wrong since November 2011?
John Ziegler: Wow. That’s like asking which of Mark Emmert’s statements have been the dumbest. Clearly, everything in this case flows directly from the McQueary myth. There simply was no assault in the shower and no one at Penn State was told that there was.
The fact that the news media has never widely reported any of the following undisputed facts regarding that episode is just staggering:
- [Name removed], the kid in the shower who got paid by Penn State for being “Victim 2,” has only ever said on the record that nothing happened.
- McQueary and the OAG got the date, the month, and the year of the episode wrong (which is exactly how the Rolling Stone/UVA case fell apart).
- McQueary testified that he never expressed a concern about Sandusky being around the program until AFTER investigators had come to ask him about the episode almost ten years later.
- No victim ever testified in that episode despite it being the most highly publicized (and potentially lucrative) act of alleged molestation in American history.
- Sandusky was found “not guilty” on the McQueary “rape” charge on which the media’s entire case against Penn State was built.
Onward State: Who are you liking for the Republican nomination in 2016? It’s pretty telling that Mitt Romney seems to actually be considering running again, no?
John Ziegler: This is the first time in my life when the GOP nominee is not easily predictable. The next president will not be Romney because the moment he announces (if he does) then he immediately loses much of his appeal. He needs to be “drafted” and the system is not set up that way any more.
A lot of who ends up winning the nomination will be determined by which eventual losers also get in the race. For instance, Ted Cruz won’t win but if he gets in that hurts Rick Perry because they are both from Texas. If Jeb Bush runs then that kills Chris Christie because he can’t get the big-money moderates.
In short, I will say I honestly don’t know who will be the nominee. However, I can tell you that Rand Paul will definitely be one of the last three standing and the more candidates who get into the race the better chance he has at the nomination. If the goal was simply to win, the nominee would be Scott Walker for sure, but Republicans aren’t that bright and no one in the conservative media will have an economic incentive to push his candidacy.
Onward State: What’s next for you? You’ve been a part of the national conversation on Sarah Palin, Tiger Woods, and Joe Paterno — surely there is only so much one person can handle for stuff like this.
John Ziegler: I have started a Sunday night radio talk show which will be syndicated nationally in early 2015. You can find out more at www.JohnAndLeahShow.com
I have been involved in a lot of tough/weird battles but this one is by FAR the most difficult and draining. It has been terrible on my career, my marriage, my golf game, and my health. Some morons (including Scott Paterno) think I have done this for myself out of some bizarre need for (extremely negative) attention. The reality is the exactly the opposite.
I know I have a very small chance of “success” here and literally ZERO chance of getting any credit if I did succeed. In fact, if you told me right now that this whole thing would get fixed but my name would never be attached to the fixing and I would never benefit from it, I would take that deal in a heartbeat.
The only reason I am on this crusade is that the magnitude of the injustice demands that someone take this on and, largely through a quirk of fate, I am literally the only person who can/will. I know most people won’t ever agree with me on the narrative until it becomes “popular,” but I really hope some will at least realize that getting justice is my true intent here is. I am positive that if everyone knew even 50% of what I have come to know about this case, they would both understand why I am doing this and why I am right.
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About the Author
We dance in 275, Penn State!
We dance in 275, Penn State!
Underwood is bringing her “The Denim & Rhinestones” tour to Happy Valley next spring.
“Jana Marie Foundation harnesses the power of creative expression and dialogue to spark conversations, build connections, and promote mental well-being among young people and their communities.”