Cloud still hangs over Joe Paterno

On Sunday, the Paterno family released its long-awaited rebuttal to the Freeh report – the project commissioned by the Penn State University Board of Trustees to determine what exactly happened during the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Not surprisingly, the report – a compilation of reports by former Pa. Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh; former FBI profiler Jim Clemente; and Dr. Fred Berlin, physician, psychiatrist and psychologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine – came to bat for the late coach Joe Paterno, basically absolving him of all wrongdoing and calling the Freeh report “fundamentally flawed” and “a failure.”

At the same time, the Paterno report claims that it “sets the record straight” regarding what happened.

The Paterno report criticizes the Freeh report for being biased and for jumping to conclusions, but fails to acknowledge that it, too, is biased and jumps to conclusions – sometimes within the same paragraph.

The Paterno report says that former FBI director Louis Freeh didn’t speak to many of the key people involved, but conveniently fails to mention the fact that it, too, does not include any record of interview with Paterno, former university president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley or former vice president Gary Schultz – Sandusky not withstanding, the four key people in the saga. The Paterno report says “Unlike Mr. Freeh, we are hesitant to speculate about individual motives in this case and why his report drew such irresponsible conclusions” but then immediately begins to postulate theories as to why Freeh jumped to conclusions without knowing all the facts.

“We may never know if Mr. Freeh was motivated to pursue maximum publicity, to align his views with the media story line that had already been established, to satisfy a desire on the part of many who sought someone to blame in addition to Jerry Sandusky for the awful abuse of children, to justify a pre-conceived conclusion he reached in good faith but that he could support only by contorting ‘evidence’ that did not fit his theory, or something else,” the report states.

This isn’t to say that the Paterno report doesn’t make some good points on its critique of the Freeh report – it does.

This isn’t to say that the Freeh report is gospel – it isn’t. But let’s make one thing clear. The Paterno report wasn’t written to “set the record straight.” It was commissioned by the Paterno family to restore the honor of Joe Paterno.

We many never know the full, unbiased account of what happened during Sandusky’s reign of terror.

Both “The Rush To Injustice Regarding Joe Paterno,” and the Freeh report were based on substantial limitations, most notably the lack of discussion with the key people. While we cannot see the recent publication as “setting the record straight,” it does make some good points on its critique of the Freeh report.