The Paterno family released a statement, preempting the results of the Freeh report, the investigation into Penn State’s response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The statement is, understandably, defensive and can be read as little more than damage control. There are some mistruths in the statement that should be addressed.
It is claimed Paterno was not offered the opportunity to share his side of the story.
When the Sandusky case exploded last fall, Joe’s first instincts were to tell everything he knew. He assumed the University would want to hear from him, but he was never given the chance to present his case.
He planned to hold a press conference, but University officials ordered him to cancel it.
This is false. Paterno’s press conference was cancelled, though he was offered multiple chances to present his case. He testified before a grand jury in Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse trial. He gave an interview to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post after the incident. Those were at least two chances.
Over the last several weeks there has been a virtual torrent of leaks about the Freeh Group’s work. To be clear, we do not know the source, or sources, of the leaks. What cannot be disputed, however, is that select emails intended to smear Joe Paterno and other former Penn State officials have been released. Testimony from witnesses highly critical of Joe has been revealed. And purported conclusions condemning the culture of the football program have been widely disseminated. The Board promised a fair, transparent and impartial process. These developments are a threat to their stated objectives.
Bias is a concept often misappropriated. The validity of the report stems from whether the information was obtained and analyzed honestly and conscientiously, not what filtered out to the media. The implications of the leaks were damaging to those Penn State officials involved. It is only a “smear” campaign if those accusations are false.
With respect to the email from Tim Curley which stated, “After giving it more thought, and talking it over with Joe yesterday – I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps,” the media spin that this is proof of some sort of cover up is completely false. When the facts come out, it will be clear that Joe Paterno never gave Tim Curley any instructions to protect Sandusky or limit any investigation of his actions.
Yes. It’s not, in isolation proof. Given the context it just looks really, really bad to any reasonable observer.
To this point, Joe Paterno is the only person who publicly acknowledged that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more. This was an honest and courageous admission that a true leader must assume a measure of responsibility when something goes wrong on his watch.
This was neither honest nor courageous. We can safely assume almost everyone affiliated with Penn State or the Second Mile wishes they had done more or wishes they had properly assembled sporadic evidence that seems so obviously linked in retrospect. Honest and courageous would have been to say what, specifically, he wished he had done. A “true leader” accepts full responsibility in the moment, not “a measure” of it long after the time for decisive action has passed.
[Photo via Getty]