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Sue Paterno on Katie: 'If the Experts Don't Know, How Can We Know?'

by on February 11, 2013 4:22 PM

Sue Paterno said before the Freeh report came out, she was actually looking forward to it, hoping the truth would be told. 

She was devastated by what former FBI director Louis Freeh said about her late husband, she told Katie Couric on "Katie" Monday. 

"He didn't know Joe," she said. "For someone who knew someone for 54 years, I knew him better."

Sue Paterno and her children spoke with Katie Couric on the talk show host's daytime television show and said the past year has been extremely difficult for them as they have mourned the loss of their father, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, and tried to deal with the subsequent fallout in their community from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. 

Couric asked Sue Paterno what her late husband knew about Sandusky's crimes. Sue said Paterno didn't know anything about Sandusky, and she herself only knew him on a professional level, seeing him occasionally at football-related functions. 

Sue Paterno described Sandusky as 'a big kid,' and said often, her own children would be allowed to play with the former Penn State defensive coordinator in the pool – something she never would have allowed had she known the man was a predator. 

"Do you think we'd let someone play with our kids who we thought was a pedophile? Would you?" Paterno said. 

When she first saw the grand jury indictment that revealed Sandusky's rampant abuse over the years, Paterno said she was horrified and in disbelief. 

"When I read the first charge, I actually got physically ill," she said. "Children are our lives. I'm horrified. I've had so many sleepless nights and I end up praying for the victims."

Couric asked whether there was anything more Joe could have or should have done. His widow defended him and said he did not know what Sandusky was doing and there was no way to tell. Sandusky was always surrounded by children and had six adopted children of his own. 

"If the experts don't know, how can we know?" she said. 

Paterno never told his wife about the 1998 incident for which Sandusky was first investigated, Sue Paterno said. She told Couric she doesn't believe he ever knew about it. 

Paterno said the day her husband lost his job, he was handed a slip of paper and was told to call the phone number on it. When he hung up the phone, Joe told Sue he had been fired. 

"I re-dialed the number and I said, 'after 61 and a half years, he deserved better.' Then I hung up," Paterno said. 

Shortly after his termination, Joe was diagnosed with lung cancer and died from complications on Jan. 22 last year. Even in the hospital, battling cancer, he didn't talk about himself. He told his family that if there was any silver lining in the tragedy that took hold of the Penn State community, it was the awareness that would be brought to child sexual abuse. 

"That's the way he lived his life. It was not about him. This became, let's find out the truth and what can we do for the university," Paterno said. 

Three of the Paterno children, Jay, Mary Kay and Diana joined their mother on the set of "Katie" to talk about their father. They said the release of their rebuttal to the Freeh report is not about restoring their father's legacy but rather to find out the truth that they believe the Freeh report ignored. 

"We miss him like crazy," Mary Kay said. 

In the audience was the Paterno family attorney, Wick Sollers and Cincinnati Bengal and former Penn State football player Aaron Maybin, who talked about Paterno's legacy and defended the Paterno family report.

Couric said in the final moments of her show that the focus needs to be on the children. 

"If you see something, say something," she said. 

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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