Yesterday CNN revealed that e-mails uncovered in Penn State’s internal investigation of the Jerry Sandusky scandal show that beloved, ever-so-ethical Jo Pa appears to have stopped the university from reporting the child-molesting ex-coach to authorities. The e-mail trail seems to show, the New York Times reported, that the university’s president, Graham B. Spanier; the athletic director, Tim Curley, and the official in charge of the campus police, Gary Schultz, were ready to report Sandusky in the wake of assistant football coach Mike McQueery’s eye-witness account of seeing Sandusky molesting a child in the showers. Curley then wrote the group that talks with Paterno had persuaded him that it would be more “humane” to confront Sandusky, bar him from bringing his young victims on campus, and urge him to get professional help. This, of course, freed Sandusky for a decade more of child sexual predation, with the kids foundation he had founded serving as his hunting grounds.
So, if the e-mails aren’t some kind of forgery, lie or hoax, it wasn’t that Joe Paterno merely failed to insist that the University take action to protect innocent boys from his old coach and colleague, though that would have been bad enough. If the e-mails are accurate, he actively discouraged other University officials from acting aggressively to protect the boys, and persuaded them than to protect their own, the football program, and the school’s reputation. As a result, at least four more children were sexually assaulted by Sandusky, according to the evidence presented at the just-completed trial that found him guilty of 40 counts of child molestation. Joe Paterno, along with Spanier, Curley and Schultz, shares responsibility with Sandusky for what happened to those boys, but Paterno most of all.
I don’t know why, but everything has been reminding me of old movies lately, and this revolting story is redolent of “Jaws.” Paterno played the role of the despicable Larry Vaughn, the mayor of Amity, who stopped the police chief from closing the beaches after a deadly shark attack, because the mayor thought it would be bad for tourism. As a direct result, the little Kintner boy ( and Pippin, a Labrador retriever) ended up as chum for a Great White. The only difference between the mayor and the iconic football coach is that Vaughn was a politician, and everyone knew he was a weasel whose values were skewed. He wasn’t like Paterno, a legend who had built his reputation on his advocacy of ethical values, and “doing the right thing.” When Larry Vaughn faced a test of his values, he played to form. When Joe Paterno faced his test, however, he showed that his vaunted values were only talk, and fed children to another kind of predator, not as deadly but just as voracious.
Let’s have an end to the Paterno worshippers’ lament about Joe’s “one mistake” and the injustice of his firing and disgrace. His fact-immune defenders deserve a place of shame next to those who call Richard Nixon a great President who was hounded out of office, and those who deny that Thomas Jefferson’s personal character was as flawed as his words were immortal. Joe Paterno knew that Jerry Sandusky was dangerous and that his prey were children, and yet Paterno not only did nothing to stop him from hurting innocents, he actively worked to allow Sandusky’s attacks to continue. Great men don’t do that. Good men don’t do that.
Larry Vaughn does that.
And Joe Paterno was worse than Larry Vaughn.
Joe Paterno, after all, was real.
Facts: New York Times
Graphic: Fascination With Fear
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