An Open Letter to the News Media: How to Do a Hit Piece on John Ziegler

Dear Media:

I know you guys better than I even know myself. Therefore, I would like to give you some advice as you decide how to cover/attack me as we soon release portions of our recent news-making interview with Jerry Sandusky and I am scheduled to appear live on the Today Show this Monday with Matt Lauer.

I know that your first inclination will be to try and ignore me (I'm talking to you ESPN) as most of you have done since we here at started correcting your many mistakes on the coverage of the Sandusky scandal. Many of you will continue, since you have no interest in finding out the real truth of this matter and might even be smart enough to realize you are in the process of being humiliated, to take that route now.

However, others of you are likely not going to be able to resist the temptation to attempt to destroy what we are doing out of sport, self interest, or both. Heck,, which I am sure will be chomping at the bit for this opportunity to display their special brand of "journalism," already planned a hit piece for me a while back before I exposed it.

For those of you in this latter category here are your possible options in the order that they will likely occur to you.

Pretend that we have discovered nothing new.

This will be difficult thanks to what will be very specific and significant revelations from our Sandusky interview which now allow a story to be told which doesn’t remotely fit your narrative, but I know you will instinctively want to try to go in this direction (heck, it worked pretty well with the Paterno report). This tactic will not be very effective.

Claim that I am supporting Jerry Sandusky or that this was a softball interview.

I realize that the fact that this charge is completely false on both counts won’t matter much to you, so it will certainly be enticing. In case do you care, 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. However, I am sure you won’t need to see all of the three and half hours before you come to such a false conclusion.

Claim that I have done something outrageous by identifying a key person in this story for the first time

That tactic would be particularly ridiculous as this person already "outed" themselves very publicly on this story, its just that you all were either too lazy or stupid to realize it.

Claim that I have not correctly identified this person or say that it doesn’t matter.

This would be a really bad idea. You would be playing on my turf on subjects I know infinitely more about than you do. Please try this one. Especially you guys at Deadspin. I would LOVE to get into a debate over my level of proof compared to what you used to break the Manti Te'o dead girlfriend story. Please go here.

John Ziegler is also defending the coach in the Steubenville case so he is insensitive to rape victims

While absurd, I can certainly seeing you trying this one, especially since the media's rush to misjudgment is so similar in both cases. The truth is (I know, you don't normally care about that) that I wrote a book about the Steubenville coach after spending the entire calendar year of 1993 with his team and have been advising him for the past several months on how to handle the media firestorm which I knew, largely because of my experience with the Penn State case, was coming his way. I am at least as certain that Reno Saccoccia was not culpable in the crimes of his players as I am in Joe Paterno's lack of blame for those of his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. As for insensitivity to rape victims, such a charge is so baseless it doesn't deserve a response.

John Ziegler is not to be believed because he is not a celebrity and only runs a website.

Now, this is more like it. I realize that in your world not being a celebrity is probably as great an offense as one can commit. I plead guilty as charged. The reality is that my disdain/distrust of celebrity is why I was able to see that the story you all were telling here was not to be trusted and probably bogus. Remember though, if you kill me off, an actual celebrity may pick up the ball and run with it.

John Ziegler is not credible because his website name "Framing Paterno" shows he is biased

I really like this one because of the hilarious absurdity of tortured logic it creates. Let me get this straight; so you guys, acting in unprecedented unison, create an almost totally false narrative for a year and a half and the only people who are allowed to bring new information to the table are those who were part of the original lynch mob?  So how is it exactly that someone who didn’t have strong suspicions that an injustice had been done here would have the passion and the energy to spend almost a full year pursuing the real truth for no compensation? So basically, under these “rules” it would be impossible for anyone to be deemed “credible” on the other side of this story. For the record, please ask Scott Paterno about how biased he thinks I am towards him. 

Scott Paterno has publicly criticized what he thinks I might say so I must be wrong

I love this one because it forces you guys to pick a lane on whether I am in the tank for the Paternos or not. It also would mark the first time in history that the media has given credibility to anything that Scott Paterno says. The reality is that Scott has absolutely no idea what I plan to say, what Sandusky said in the interview and, most bizarrely, the nature of my hours of conversations with the very person he is using to try and discredit me, Jim Clemente (even to the point where I used questions in the Sandusky interview based on Jim's recommendations). The most important point here is that while I have obvious sympathy for the Paterno family, I am not doing this for them (and especially not for Scott). My only objective here is the truth. I am not convinced that Scott's version of what happened here even makes sense based on the current evidence and it certainly does not exonerate Joe Paterno.

"Framing Paterno" is a conspiracy theory

As I have said many time, including at the top of our webpage, the term "framing" is meant figuratively, not literally. Hopefully some of you can comprehend the distinction there.

John Ziegler is doing this for money and is using the victims for profit

Please tell this one to my wife. It might make her a little less ticked off at me for having put her through this for most of the past year. The reality (as if that matters to you) is that, other than some frequent flier miles, I have not made a dime off of this project and I turned down the chance to be paid for the contents of this interview.

John Ziegler betrayed Sarah Palin after being her champion, so he is not to be trusted

This might take a little too much research and imagination (two things I know you hate) for you to come up with on your own, but I figured I would throw it out there for you. The fact is that I was the best advocate/advisor Sarah Palin ever had and if she had listened to me she would be in an exponentially better position today than she currently is. When she made it clear to me she had sold out for fame and fortune, I, against my own self interest and costing myself an awful lot of money, exposed her for having done so. A remotely accurate look at my relationship with Sarah Palin will actually bolster my credibility more than an examination of just about anything else I have ever done.

John Ziegler got fired in radio lots of times for saying things which seem outrageous

This is actually true. It is totally and completely irrelevant to the findings of my findings on the Sandusky scandal and whether Joe Paterno was railroaded by you, but yes, this charge is mostly true. Now, not that you care, but you will have to take the things I said totally out of context and leave out important facts in order to make me look really bad, but I am quite sure this will not stop you. Go for it. It will be a sure sign that you have waved the white flag when it comes to defending your many mistakes on the false Joe Paterno narrative you created.

John Ziegler once got sued for defamation because he talked badly about an ex-girlfriend on air

This one, while also completely irrelevant, I am sure will be hard to resist, especially if you decide to leave out important facts like: It was ten years ago, contrary to popular belief I wasn’t remotely graphic when discussing her,she was a TV host who discussed her plastic surgery on my show previously, I apologized on the air, I was rehired/promoted by the same company in a much larger market three months later, and I won the defamation suit at trial on a unanimous verdict by a mostly female jury in one of the proudest moments of my life. Have fun.

John Ziegler was insensitive when famous author David Foster Wallace killed himself

A few years after David Foster Wallace shadowed me for a few months to write a bizarre and highly inaccurate 23-page cover story on me for Atlantic magazine, he committed suicide. I wrote that I thought he did this because he knew he could not live up to the “genius” label he was being given in the literary community and decided to off himself before he was exposed as a fraud. I suppose this was insensitive, but I still think it was true. Good luck trying to make that relevant to why you incorrectly reported thousands of times that Mike McQueary witnessed a rape and told Joe Paterno about it.

Critically examine the findings the interview in a serious, open-minded , and truth-seeking fashion

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!! I’m sorry. I forgot. You guys don’t do things like that anymore. Well, thankfully you have plenty of other options.

Good luck!




John Ziegler


P.S. I know that it is not your style to actually ask for comment before doing stories on someone who you want to destroy, but should you decide to pretend to be at least remotely fair, please feel free to make inquires through the email [email protected]