The way the report submitted last July by former FBI Director Louis Freeh presented Joe Paterno made his widow sick.
She said so on television.
The report made a lot of other people sick, too, but that had nothing to do with the way it presented Joe Paterno. They were made ill by the description of how Jerry Sandusky, formerly Joe Paterno’s assistant, sexually molested numerous children.
Readers of the Freeh report and the Paterno family report can now argue about what Joe Paterno knew about Jerry Sandusky’s criminal behavior and when he knew it. They can conclude that when Paterno himself said he wished he’d done more, he was acknowledging that he was in part responsible for perpetrating Sandusky’s criminal acts. Or they can conclude that Paterno was only saying what anyone might say in a similar circumstance: I wish I could have done something to prevent this horror.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.
The members of the Paterno family who felt it was necessary to create a counter-argument to the Freeh report can’t be blamed for wanting to enter into the record a less damning portrait of Joe Paterno. But the family’s efforts shouldn’t be allowed to obscure Jerry Sandusky’s crimes, which he was able to commit in part because of his prior association with an excessively celebrated college football program and its iconic coach.
Perhaps no college football or basketball program anywhere is or ever has been as widely admired as Penn State’s football program once was, whether legitimately or not. No mere mortal could ever be as virtuous and free of blemish as Joe Paterno’s passionate supporters have maintained he was. These circumstances contributed to a mindset which elevated the protection of the program and Paterno himself above every other concern, including the welfare of Sandusky’s victims.
Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who put together the report for the Paterno family, has said the Freeh report was “based on raw speculation.”
Louis Freeh has defended his report and reiterated that “the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect children from a sexual predator.” Nobody can deny that Joe Paterno was one of the most powerful people at Penn State.
Perhaps his family feels better for having commissioned a report that presents Joe Paterno as a victim. Those who were the real victims aren’t likely to be comforted by it.