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Paterno, Penn St. Officials Engaged in Cover Up

8 months ago, Penn State University asked former FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh to do an investigation of who knew about Jerry Sandusky’s rape of children and what they did about it. Freeh’s report is now out and PSU probably isn’t going to like the answers. The report concludes that nearly everyone at Penn State, including Joe Paterno and the PSU leadership, engaged in a 14 year cover up of those crimes.

Joe Paterno and other top Penn State officials hushed up child sex abuse allegation against Jerry Sandusky more than a decade ago for fear of bad publicity, allowing Sandusky to prey on other youngsters, according to a scathing internal report issued today on the scandal.

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” said former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was hired by university trustees to look into what has become one of sports’ biggest scandals. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

After an eight-month inquiry, Freeh’s firm produced a 267-page report that concluded that Hall of Fame coach Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.”

Freeh called the officials’ disregard for child victims “callous and shocking.”

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse,” the report said. Paterno “was an integral part of this active decision to conceal,” Freeh said at a news conference.

School leaders “empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access” to campus and his affiliation with the football program, the report said. The access, the report states, “provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims.”

This is not just a story about football. It raises a number of important issues that need to be addressed:

1. The inordinate power of prominent sports coaches at many universities. Paterno was a legendary figure, not only at Penn State but in sports itself, and his power and influence at Penn State was extraordinary. It’s now clear that he was the one who stopped the university from reporting Sandusky to the police. The original plan was to inform the police, but the athletic director explicitly said in an email that after a discussion with Paterno, he had changed his mind. Sandusky was never reported and went on to molest many more children after that fateful decision. But this could happen at many other universities as well, especially where there are powerful coaches that everyone is afraid to cross. There’s huge money at stake, which makes attempts to protect that money inevitable.

2. The Catholic Church. The law requires those Penn State officials to report child abuse to the police, which they failed to do here. But the churches are exempted from such laws. This exact same scenario happened hundreds of times in the Catholic Church for decades, with bishops and cardinals — including the current pope — deliberately covering up the same crimes when committed by priests, refusing to report them to the police and keeping them in positions where they could find more victims instead. Yet only once, in just the last few weeks, has even one person in such a position been charged with a crime. That needs to be changed. Cardinal Law and many others should be facing criminal charges of aiding and abetting.

3. The absurdity of hero worship. When all of this started, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people gathered around Penn State and expressed their outrage at the vicious, dishonest attacks on Joe Paterno’s integrity. But they were wrong. Flagrantly wrong. They were supporting a man who helped Sandusky rape dozens of children, even if he wasn’t directly involved in it. They should feel pretty ashamed right now, but I bet a lot of them don’t. They let their hero worship override both their logical faculties and their moral values. And they’re hardly the only ones to do so. This is not only common but absolutely routine, especially in politics. We need to learn from that.

Comments

  1. tuibguy says

    There is a statue of Joe Pa outside the stadium, put up because of his extraordinary success coaching football for the Nittany Lions. I think it is time to come down, considering the price he was willing to pay in order to keep his success going. A price, that is, paid by numerous kids who were badly damaged by Sandusky.

    Also, since there was such a level of coverup, I think that Penn State should get the “death penalty” for four years as SMU did for recruiting violations. Child rape, in my own opinion is far more serious than recruiting violations.

    And Penn State knew and didn’t do anything about it.

    I feel bad for the current players if they don’t get to play football there, but Penn State needs to be punished for its role as an institution and the individual actors should be prosecuted for their roles in not reporting crime.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Huh – Louis Freeh finally learned how to do an honest and comprehensive investigation.

    Wonder when that happened?

  3. slc1 says

    It’s even worse then that. It appears that Mr. Paterno perjured himself in his Grand Jury testimony last year when he claimed that he was unaware of an incident that occurred in 1998. The emails show that he was aware of it and helped persuade the higher ups to not report it to law enforcement. If he were still alive, he might well be looking at an indictment for perjury.

  4. Larry says

    Penn Staters may continue to see that statue as honoring a successful football coach. Everyone else will see it as the symbol of Boy Raper University for years to come.

  5. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    Freeh’s report is now out and PSU probably isn’t going to like the answers.

    One report I read a couple of days ago noted that many people on campus were crowded around televisions in the public areas with TVs when the Freeh report was released. That was expected since Mr. Freeh’s group had announced in advance what day and time they’d be releasing their findings and that they’d be using TV to broadcast a verbal summary of their findings.

    At least some of these PSU public common TVs can be controlled by some central admin center, where the person on duty switched the channel when Mr. Freeh came on to make his report, so those crowded around were prevented from viewing Mr. Freeh present his case. That validate at least one person, if not his or her PSU-employed management, continues to demonstrate the behavior Ed predicts in his blog post here.

    Besides the atrocity of the crime and how this university contributed to the unnecessary suffering of so many children and others after it became known Mr. Sandusky was a pedophile, it’s also disconcerting to see a a public university, which are usually bastions of liberality, display the same type of denialism we see from YECs, climate change denialists, conservative Christians, and conservative Republicans (I repeat myself on the last group).

    It’d be interesting to understand the difference in political ideology between the Penn State leaders involved in the cover-up relative to the faculty in general. I speculate we’d find there’s an enormous gap.

  6. 'Tis Himself says

    If Sandusky had been reported the first time people knew about his activities, it would have been an article or two in the back pages of the sports section, a 45 second comment on ESPN and then nothing except a repeat of the initial stories when he was convicted. Paterno and Penn State would have come out ahead if they’d call the cops on Sandusky because it would be obvious they’d acted reasonably and responsibly to a problem. Sandusky would have been the only villain. Now Paterno and Penn State are being derided for not acting reasonably and responsibly.

  7. jws1 says

    @tuibguy: just a minor nitpick, but SMU was given the “death penalty” for just one season by the NCAA, and chose voluntarily to forgo a second season. Missing two years killed their program for 20 years; four years weren’t needed to get the job done.

  8. desoto says

    @6 I agree. It amazes me, as it always has with the catholic church, that the only option always seems to be “cover up”. Would joe paterno not have still been a “hero” if he uncovered and turned in a pedophile? I am sure they believe they have enemies out there just waiting to pounce on every little incident in order to destroy them. Such is the curse of a big ego or cash cow (both in this case).

  9. Michael Heath says

    tuibguy writes:

    I feel bad for the current players if they don’t get to play football there, but Penn State needs to be punished . . .

    I think the PSU football program should be shut down altogether for a certain number of years. The NCAA should then allow all the current players to transfer to another school and not have to wait to become eligible to play as most transfer students must do.

  10. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #5

    It’s rather interesting to read the talkbacks on some of the articles written in the press. Particularly the talkbacks to an article by John Feinstein on the Washington Post web site and an article on the New York Times web site.

    In particular, the number of folks who are in denial vented their spleen on Louis Freeh, much like Mr. Butler did in comment #2 on this thread. In the case of Feinstein’s article, there was much attacking the messenger.

    However, the complicity of the media in the whole sordid affair of big time college athletics cannot be ignored. For example, one need only point to the sportswriters who for years have been beating the drums for a playoff system in Division 1 college football to replace the current BCS system, which, itself, replaced the previous bowl system, in the sportswriter driven frenzy to determine who’s number 1. The old bowl system seemed to be a perfectly satisfactory ending to the college football season; the system wasn’t broken so the NCAA fixed it.

  11. Michael Heath says

    Another group denying what happened is the people in Mr. Paterno’s family who have had their perspective reported in the media. Some of them claimed after the Freeh report was published that Mr. Paterno didn’t know about Mr. Sandusky’s abuse and was “fooled” by Mr. Sandusky. Denial or dishonesty are their only two options given the evidence we now have and had when these family members presented their case.

    Fortune smiled on Mr. Paterno given his quick death. Mr. Paterno’s behavior effectively guaranteed children would be abused directly because he was the football coach at PSU; his death prevents him from having to confront the full brunt of our collective ire for his role.

    Is Paterno objectively evil for his culpability? I’d argue from a societal impact, his evil is far less worse than the sum of evil generated by garden variety conservative Christians who abuse children when it comes to their indoctrinal efforts, both in the home and in the public square. Efforts which successfully creates enormous barriers to tens of millions of children reaching their full potential and enjoying the educational and career opportunities children from homes who value education and objective truth enjoy. And the latter only if that latter group of children also attend schools not influenced by conservative Christian political and religious objectives, which is very difficult in many red state areas of the country.

  12. says

    The law requires … officials to report child abuse to the police… But the churches are exempted from such laws.

    What? How is that possible?

  13. Matrim says

    To paraphrase Tim Minchin: “If you cover for a single mother-fucker who’s a kiddie-fucker, fuck you, mother-fucker, you’re as evil as the rapist.”

  14. Matrim says

    @Forrest> Priest-penitent privilege. If a priest approaches another priest or his bishop as a confessor, they cannot be compelled to give testimony to the subject of the confession. There are various interpretations from state to state, and it obviously doesn’t apply in certain circumstances, but it is quite the obstacle.

  15. says

    We need to learn from that.

    Would that we could. No one has yet figured out how to get human minds to collectively stop doing what they’re inclined to do.

    We idealize as part of healthy, adaptive development. Idealization is at the core of identity formation, development of ideals and sense of purpose. It’s also essential to constructive leadership and the adaptive bonding of children and parents, friends, lovers, and groups. But there’s no free lunch in selected human tendencies, which is why biases and just plain craziness will be part of humanity for the foreseeable future. Maladaptive infatuations and hero worship are the costs of adaptive idealizations. Rather than expecting that we’re going to change that, I think it’s necessary to think about how we can offset the detrimental dimensions of these tendencies.

    IMO, one area that has been given short shrift in discussions of failure to report is the question of how we can build encouragement to report into the institutional systems that naturally tend to squash threats to the institutions. The cover up is itself an adaptive reaction, so how do we counteract the natural tendency?

    We can arrest and punish failure-to-report on the back end, and that’s part of the solution, but at the front end that doesn’t stop people from fearing that they’ll become social pariahs, lose esteem, lose important personal relationships, lose livelihoods and lose careers. There are also situations in which there is suspicion without substantial evidence and people fear the social and institutional reactions if they report erroneously. Rather than expecting people to change, I think it’s important to ask what we can do systemically to encourage behavior that otherwise tends to get squashed. It seems like reporting is a moral no-brainer standing outside the situation, but if social psychologists have learned anything, the situation exerts strong influences on behavior, leading many people to do awful things they never thought themselves capable of.

  16. says

    slc1;

    Not that Pierce Butler (that name always makes me think of the game of “Clue”) is incapable of articulating his own defense but I sorta doubt that he was “attacking” Freeh. It sounded more like he was saying that Freeh’s suddenly doing something in a non-partisan fashion was a bit ironic.

    This:

    “Now Paterno and Penn State are being derided for not acting reasonably and responsibly.”.

    This is WAY too charitable. Paterno and others at Penn State FUCKING LIED

  17. says

    Paterno saw it coming, too, and re-negotiated some of his contract terms so that he and his wife would get taken care of if they had to bail out. Nice.

  18. slc1 says

    Re Dr. X @ #15

    A perfect example of this is the actions of Mike McQueary after he apparently saw Sandusky ass fucking a 10 year old boy in the shower room. He goes home, greatly troubled by what he had seen, as any of us would be, and tells his father. His father councils him to report the incident to Coach Paterno. The next day, he goes to see Paterno and is somewhat vague in his reporting, not making it clear to the coach that he had witnessed a sexual encounter between Sandusky and the boy (what he should have told Paterno was that he saw Sandusky fucking a 10 year old boy in the ass). AFAWK, after his report to Paterno, he did nothing further until the scandal broke into the press 10 years later.

  19. says

    @Matrim – Ah. I understand the need for confessions to be confidential but that is ridiculous! A religious confession to a priest should have to follow the same guidelines for reporting crimes as psychologists, namely, if the crime was child abuse, elder abuse or a future threat to self or someone else. I don’t see confessions any differently than as therapy session by someone who is ordained.

  20. desoto says

    Mike McQueary should’ve called the police! This isn’t someone taking office supplies home and the other employees aren’t sure whether or not it was authorized. It is a crime plain and simple! If he saw someone getting murdered, would he wait and tell paterno the next day? Well, probably yes, since he too seems to have no morals when it comes to protecting his position.

  21. says

    Joe Pa is a decomposing piece of shit. There isn’t enough hell for somebody like him (as if I believed in hell in the first place). His estate may be sued by the abuse victims. If his family is financially destroyed by the process it may be instructive to others.

    This:

    “This is 2012. Turn the historical clock back 2000 years, and find yourself in the pagan Roman Empire before Christianity arose, i.e., before the Christianization of the West. In Rome, as in ancient Greece, homosexuality was completely acceptable. To be more exact, homosexual activity was frowned on (but not very diligently) when it occurred between two free-born men, but it was cheerfully affirmed between a master and his slave, and even more, a man and a boy between the ripe ages of about 12 to 17—just the target age of Sandusky”

    is from here:

    “http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/1449/why_is_jerry_sandusky_guilty.aspx”.

    Just one more in a centuries long smear job of teh GAY by the Rapers of Children Cult. That they manage to include all of the victims in their “ripe age” group is just the cherry on the sundae of deceit that they dish up for their credulous readers.

    Cath-O-Licks, lying about teh GAY and equating them with paedophiles like Sandusky is a strategic move.

  22. desoto says

    Nice logic – because something existed b4 xtianity and we now frown upon it, we can thank xtianinty? Wow. How delusional. I believe today most people think it is wrong because a child cannot consent to the relationship not because xtians hate gays. Maybe slavery was abolished by xtiantiy, no wait . . .

  23. says

    There is a statue of Joe Pa outside the stadium, put up because of his extraordinary success coaching football for the Nittany Lions. I think it is time to come down, considering the price he was willing to pay in order to keep his success going.

    Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people tweeted on Friday that the statue should be rotated to look the other way. I have my own preferred solution.
    You simply cannot put brand loyalty above the welfare of human beings, especially children.

  24. maureenbrian says

    If you wish for the full lesson in the dangers of hierarchical systems and “brand loyalty” – thanks, feralboy12 – the full report is here

    http://thefreehreportonpsu.com/

    from which I note, in particular, a university president “who discouraged discussion and dissent” and a distinct lack of women among the dramatis personae.

    No! I do not claim that we are more moral. There are times when we are differently moral and times, like this, when that difference counts.

  25. otrame says

    IMO, everyone who can be shown to have known about it needs to go to jail (yeah, I know, but that is what should happen) . The football program needs to be shut down for a year with a ban on playoffs, no matter how well they do in the season, for another 4 years. This puts the payment of the crime on kids who had nothing to do with it, and I am sorry for that, but the only way to make these heartless bastards pretend to have a conscience is to show them that the potential punishment for hiding crimes like this is bad enough to get their attention. As someone upthread mentioned, let the kids transfer without penalties if they want. The Penn State football program should take decades to recover from this. Fuckers.

  26. Pierce R. Butler says

    democommie @ # 16 – That’s right! I did it in the conservatory with a candlestick!

    And yes, I was commenting primarily on Louis Freeh’s less-than-glorious tenure as the top Fan Belt Inspector; how SLC1 @ # 10 managed to read that as “denial” regarding Pathological Paterno remains a mystery beyond the combined resources of Hasbro to solve.

  27. says

    SLC,

    McQueary is the perfect example. Little relative power, just beginning his career and fearing that his own decision could end it, an apparent web of social relationships that his father and Paterno were part of and probably a few other situational factors.

  28. slc1 says

    Re Pierce Butler @ #26

    Let me make it perfectly clear so that there be no misunderstanding. I did not mean to imply that Mr. Butler was in denial. I only meant to compare Mr. Butler’s bad mouthing of Freeh with many of the talkbackers, particularly on Feinstein’s column in the WP.

  29. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    No! I do not claim that we are more moral. There are times when we are differently moral and times, like this, when that difference counts.

    Or, more likely (or perhaps more precisely), the systems that inculcate the mindset that produces this kind of abuse also tend to exclude women, thus inhibiting women from as readily becoming a specific kind of immoral.

  30. left0ver1under says

    3. The absurdity of hero worship.

    You ought to take a look at some football fan forums. They’re full of attempts to “defend” Paterno, saying nonsense like, “You’re attacking a dead man who can’t defend himself!”

    Paterno is not a victim, he was as guilty as Sandusky for covering it up. Publishing documents proving that Paterno led the coverup is like police publishing documents found in Jerry and Joseph Kane’s house. The public has a right to know what really happened, if others were involved and how culpable the people are.

  31. left0ver1under says

    tuibguy says:

    There is a statue of Joe Pa outside the stadium, put up because of his extraordinary success coaching football for the Nittany Lions. I think it is time to come down, considering the price he was willing to pay in order to keep his success going. A price, that is, paid by numerous kids who were badly damaged by Sandusky.

    It says a lot about someone’s ego to allow a statue of the person’s likeness to be erected while still alive. It certainly explains Paterno’s willingness to cover up the crime: he was more worried about himself than anyone else.

    “I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one.”
    - Cato the Elder

  32. says

    This is not only common but absolutely routine, especially in politics.

    “Especially” in politics? Really? When was the last time a political leader or party was found to have engaged in such a systematic coverup of child-rape? The worst examples we’re seeing these days come from a university athletic dept. and some religious communities. Offhand, it seems to me that politicians — in democratic systems at least — are a bit less able to cover up this sort of thing than top-down authoritarian organizations.

  33. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Offhand, it seems to me that politicians — in democratic systems at least — are a bit less able to cover up this sort of thing than top-down authoritarian organizations.

    We might as well just shortcut to “pants-down authoritarian organizations.”

  34. dingojack says

    Raging Bee (#35) – Well not child rape specifically, but here …
    Once upon a time there was a politician called Peter Slipper.
    He was a member of the (conservative) Liberal Coalition for many years then, in the last election, neither the (liberal) Labor Party nor the (conservative) Liberals got a majority of the votes.
    Both sides had to scrabble to form alliances with the (leftish) Greens and the independents members, and, as it turned out, Labor was better at it than the Liberals. This gave Labor a wafer thin margin (3 seats I think) if all the independents voted their way.
    In order to reduce the number of Liberals votes, the Labor Party nominated, and elected, Peter Slipper to the office of Speaker of the House making him unable to vote except to break a tie. The Liberals were furious with him for ‘defecting’ and losing them a much needed vote so they kicked him out of the Party. And naturally he started voting more often with the Labor Party than his former colleagues.
    Then an (male) aide of Peter Slipper came forward alleging sexual harassment, and producing emails and private dairy entries. The media loved it. Peter Slipper was forced to resign as speaker under a barrage of Liberal speeches about ‘character’ and ‘morality’. The case was referred to the police.
    However, it now seems that the aide went to see the Leader of Liberal Party Business in the House, Christopher Pyne, as well as other senior Liberal Party figures before he went public (and that they lied about doing so). It also seems that Peter Slipper was well known for his ‘activities’ at least ten years earlier when he was a Liberal Party functionary. The Liberals knew, and did nothing at all to stop it.
    So all that rhetoric about ‘morality’ and ‘character’ directed at Julia Gillard and Peter Slipper seems a little hollow now. The rot is rising higher and higher up the Liberal Party’s ranks and they started themselves. Oops.
    [Sorry about the TL;DR, but I thought it needed a little background].
    Dingo

  35. dingojack says

    Further to my post above, it seems this could be shapong up to become:
    Utegate II, The Adventure Continues!’
    Dingo

  36. says

    “Schlonging up” might be even better.

    I think we have ample proof in Mark Foley and a few others that politicians can cover things up for quite some time before it becomes “news”.

  37. says

    I’d like to see the statue destroyed by dynamite, but with one caveat: Sell raffle tickets for the honor of pressing the button on the detonator and donate the money to RAINN, or a similar organization.

  38. left0ver1under says

    Aaaaand, it gets worse. Pent-up State knew there was an ongoing problem for decades and chose to protect Paterno, rather than listen to someone who might have fixed it.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/15/us/triponey-paterno-penn-state/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

    Instead of listening to Vicky Triponey, the university forced her out to please those in the football program, including Paterno. She was deemed to be the “problem”, not the players. Violence such as gangs of players beating students into unconsciousness was swept under the rug, and Triponey was thrown under the team bus.

  39. slc1 says

    Joe Paterno is a textbook example of Lord Acton’s famous phrase, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    However, don’t think that Ms. Triponey’s experience at Penn State is in any way, shape, form, or regard unique. The lax discipline of athletes, particularly football and basketball players at big time Division 1 schools, is legion. Quarterback beats the shit out of somebody outside a bar. Suspend him, surly one jests. Can’t jeopardize the chances of victory at next Saturday’s game.

  40. Pinky says

    I realized years ago that football was possibly the most important thing at many universities. It is more important than academics (doesn’t it seem backwards to award more scholarships for athletic ability than brains?); fair play; preparing students for the future, teaching ethics and many other important things universities should be concentrating on.

    Now I learn football is more important than preventing children being raped. The US is a sick, sad country and no, religion is not the answer, its a big part of the problem.

  41. Nathair says

    Lord Acton’s famous phrase, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Actually, it was “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Not quite the same thing.

  42. slc1 says

    Re Nathair @ #46

    Point taken. Here’s another aphorism from Lord Acton that is, perhaps, applicable to the Penn State brouhaha, “There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men.”

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