Paterno Family Makes Media Rounds to Defend Report
The Paterno family’s well-timed foray into the court of public opinion continued Monday when Jay Paterno, son of former football coach Joe Paterno, spoke publicly for the first time since the release of the Paterno report, a 238-page rebuttal to July’s Penn State-commissioned Freeh report.
Paterno’s schedule is packed with media appearances. He’s spending the morning and early afternoon at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. before an evening appearances on CNN.
Paterno’s mother, Sue, had an interview with Katie Couric that will air Monday afternoon. Paterno and his two sisters, Mary Kay Hort and Diana Paterno Giegerich were also seen in a preview clip from Couric’s studio.
Appearing Monday morning for about 30 minutes of actual airtime on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, Paterno, the only son to enter his father’s coaching profession, echoed most of the same sentiments in the family-commissioned report released Sunday.
To wit, there is loose, circumstantial evidence that Joe Paterno had knowledge of a 1998 police investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator who is serving a de-facto life sentence in a state prison after being convicted last summer.
And, Joe Paterno was fooled by the deceptive nature pedophiles are known for, subscribing to the idea presented by former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, who argued Sandusky fell into the top 1 percent of effective sexual deviants.
But Jay Paterno also refuted common perceptions circulating in mainstream media even to this day regarding Sandusky’s visibility around campus 10 years after the infamous 2001 incident in which then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary observed Sandusky naked in the shower with a young boy with his hands up against the wall and Sandusky standing directly behind him with his hands wrapped around the boy’s waist.
Jay said Sandusky did not attend football practice — with or without children — after 2001. He did not travel on the road or stand on the sidelines.
He did say, however, that when he saw Sandusky working out in the team’s weight room early in the morning, he was alone.
“The idea that Jerry was around all the time, it’s not factual,” Paterno said.
Sandusky was constantly around in 1998, however, as he still served under Joe Paterno at that time. That simple fact led Mike Golic to question how a head football coach would not know his top defensive chieftain was being investigated by university police.
Jay Paterno said state laws prohibited his father from learning details of that investigation. Emails obtained by the Freeh investigative team, however, signal Joe Paterno was made aware of that investigation, which yielded no charges at that time (Sandusky was found guilty of unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors and endangering a child's welfare but was acquitted of indecent assault during his June trial).
Jay Paterno said several people testified Joe did not know about 1998, and there is only one email that references a connection between Paterno and the 1998 investigation. In a May 5 email from Tim Curley to Gary Schultz, both former officials facing criminal charges, Curley wrote, “I have touched base with the coach. Keep us posted. Thanks.”
The next day, Schultz replied to Curley with “Joe Paterno” in the subject line and wrote, “Will do. Since we talked tonight I’ve learned that the Public Welfare people will interview the individual Thursday.”
“It’s vague as to what that means,” Jay Paterno said Monday. “If Joe were here alive today he can answer that question better than any of us. But . . .”
Joe Paterno died Jan. 22, 2012 because of complications from lung cancer treatments.
One irrefutable fact regarding Paterno, however, is his knowledge of an allegation against Sandusky in 2001, when McQueary reported to Paterno the day after the graduate assistant happened upon Sandusky in the on-campus shower.
Here’s what Joe Paterno testified to the grand jury in early 2011.
Q: Without getting into any graphic detail, what did Mr. McQueary tell you he had seen and where?
A: Well, he had seen a person, an older -- not an older, but a mature person who was fondling, whatever you might call it -- I'm not sure what the term would be -- a young boy.
Q: I think you used the term fondling. Is that the term that you used?
A: Well, I don't know what you would call it. Obviously, he was doing something with the youngster. It was a sexual nature. I'm not sure exactly what it was. I didn't push Mike to describe exactly what it was because he was very upset. Obviously, I was in a little bit of a dilemma since Mr. Sandusky was not working for me anymore. So I told -- I didn't go any further than that except I knew Mike was upset and I knew some kind of inappropriate action was being taken by Jerry Sandusky with a youngster.
Jay Paterno argued his father met his legal responsibility, but the $1 million question was soon broached by Golic.
“Wow, I just can’t even fathom that something happened in 1998 and something happened in 2001 and we don’t think there’s an issue, that grown men do not think there’s an issue here,” Golic said. “Something’s wrong. That doesn’t make sense to me at all.”
Why didn’t Joe do more?
His son said he told him he did what he believed was right, that Joe believed following university protocol and informing Curley and Schultz and requesting they speak to McQueary was the correct course of action.
But was that right?
“I don’t want to evaluate what they did because I’m not privy to all the discussions,” Jay Paterno said. “As a parent you hope to God that if that ever happens to your child somebody would go to the law to do those things.”
About three or four months ago, Sue Paterno found a notepad Joe used in the days before he passed away.
On it, according to the family report, reads: “Good side of scandal -- it has brought about more enlightenment of a situation (sexual abuse of young people) in the country.”
Clemente’s report details steps every community should take to better recognize potential pedophiles, and the family encouraged all to thoroughly read that report, irrespective of their views on Joe Paterno’s role in the Sandusky scandal.
Jay Paterno, who is a regular contributor to StateCollege.com, added one more lesson he hopes come to light amid the scandal.
“We have to be very careful of rushing to judgment,” he said. “In those first seven or eight days there were so many things reported that were inaccurate. I understand. I write my column every two weeks. I understand the pressure some of the media people are on because they have to get the story first.
“Even if the bell is rung, we have to go back and have perspective.”