“How can you continue to defend this man?” That would sum up the refrain of Joe Paterno’s critics—or at least it’s a sanitized version of what makes its way around social media. It appeared again in the wake of claims that “documentation” existed that Paterno was made aware of Jerry Sandusky’s pedophilia at least as early as 1976.
For the sake of this blog post, I’m going to keep a complex topic fairly simple—I have not found Paterno’s (as distinct from Sandusky’s) accusers to be credible. And I don’t believe that any crime, no matter how grave, justifies wildly slinging charges at anyone in the vicinity of the criminal.
Paterno’s accusers are not, at least officially, the children that Sandusky abused. His accusers have been the Freeh Report, and now the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Company. Both have serious conflict of interests.
The Freeh Report—hailed by a lazy media filled with few members who actually read it and even fewer who applied any real critical analysis—was hardly the unbiased report it was billed as. It was bankrolled by the Penn State Board of Trustees.
The conclusion of the Freeh Report? That Paterno, then-AD Tim Curley, and then-president Graham Spanier had been negligent, but that, lo and behold the Board was basically kept in the dark.
Translation—the Board of Trustees spent millions on a report to basically say “It’s not our fault.”
I wrote a lengthy analysis of the flaws in this report in the summer of 2012. I invite you to read it, but if you don’t have time, I’ll also sum it up in a sentence—it’s a lot of dry information about events that can be interpreted about as many ways as you want, but Louis Freeh goes out of his way to interpret them in the most damning possible way to Paterno, Curley and Spanier while giving the Board a slap on the wrist. And Freeh inserts media-friendly soundbites at key points—a brilliant PR move for a lazy media.
Now let’s come to the insurance company that’s behind the currently surfacing claims. Again, let’s keep it simple. If the insurer can establish that Penn State knowingly kept a pedophile on the payroll that they aren’t liable for the millions in settlement claims. Otherwise, they have to pay up.
Are you serious?! How does anyone possibly consider this a claim coming from an unbiased source? How does the conflict of interest not at least get acknowledged by Paterno’s critics? It’s stuff like this that makes me understand why Penn State feels like the world is lined up against them.
I’ve tried to keep an open mind on this topic and hold to the view that if real evidence can come forth that legitimately indicts Paterno, then I’ll listen. I’m going to ask the critics of the former Penn State coach a question—is it really unreasonable to ask that the indictment to come from somewhere other than either a Board of Trustees trying to cover its rear end or an insurance company trying to avoid a settlement claim?
And is it unreasonable to ask this—why were the charges of conspiracy and obstruction filed against Curley and Spanier (similar to the charges that might have come against Paterno had he lived) dismissed? Why has no enterprising reporter seeking a Pulitzer Prize come along and uncovered the smoking gun? Could it be that, nearly five years after the original revelation of Sandusky’s crimes that the man who’s guilty is, lo and behold…Jerry Sandusky?
The children are the victims in this case, there’s no doubt about it. But the man who violated them is behind bars. If you want to keep looking for more criminals, either find evidence from legitimate sources or let it go.