Editorial by John Ziegler
Things Most People Still Don't "Get" About the Jerry Sandusky Scandal
One of the most interesting phenomenon about the biggest news stories of the modern age is that the larger a story is, the bigger the gap seems to be between what people think they know about what happened and what really occurred (this is how most Americans think Bill Clinton was impeached for having oral sex with an intern) .
Having communicated, from a contrarian point of view, with literally hundreds of people about the Jerry Sandusky case, I have been struck by how true this is regarding the horrific narrative which has captivated the sports world since last November. Because at one point I was preparing to produce a documentary on it for a major network (one that will be made, but without my participation) I have made it my business to know all of the facts about this case.
In my experience there are many important elements which, thanks in large part to poor media coverage, are not just lost on the general public, but which the average person simply refuses to accept as reality, even when they are directly told about them. Most incredibly, I have found that this is even true with a lot of Penn State supporters who, seemingly out of guilt and fear of being seen as not accepting reality, have bought into largely suspect narratives.
To be clear, I am totally convinced that Sandusky was guilty and that the verdicts were, for the most part, completely justified (though the process was clearly rushed). I just strongly believe that many people have come to unfair conclusions about the now deceased Joe Paterno because they simply don’t have a clear picture of all the facts.
Here are the most important things that, at least in my experience, most people just don’t "get" about the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Without a doubt, the number one item on this list is that there is no known victim from the episode witnessed by Mike McQueary, which got so much of the media coverage and which ultimately resulted in Paterno’s firing. When I tell people this fact they think that I am either joking or that I simply mean that the victim just doesn’t want to be identified.
Neither is true. Despite worldwide media coverage and the likelihood of a huge civil case paycheck, no one has ever come forward in any way to say that they were raped or abused by Sandusky in the Penn State showers on the day McQueary says he saw something awful. This doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it should have at least raised important questions which were mostly never asked.
Not only is there no known victim from the McQueary episode, incredibly, the only known witness to the event got the date it happened wrong. McQueary didn’t just get the day of this seemingly momentous incident wrong. He also got the month wrong. And the even the year! The only thing more remarkable than this inexplicable lapse in memory (how do you forget the year in which something like that happened unless you only thought it was extremely significant years later?), was that the very same media which covered the initial McQueary allegation as if it was a presidential assassination, barely even mentioned this startling revelation which came to light just before the trial.
Two other facts about McQueary, which have been lost in the avalanche of information about the case, are that he told a doctor friend that he never saw any sex and that he went out of his way to participate in at least two events hosted by Sandusky after the scene in the shower. Both of these issues came up at trial (the jury even asked to have the doctor’s testimony read back during deliberations) and probably played a role in one of the verdicts.
Now that the verdicts are in, also making the list of things most people don’t realize about the Sandusky case is the significance of one of the three not guilty judgments. It turns out that, after all of the coverage of the McQueary allegation and the resulting ignominious ending of a 60 year era at Penn State football and the death of a legend, Sandusky was actually acquitted of the rape charge from that allegation.
This was hardly ever mentioned on any of the television coverage of the verdict and is more than just an interesting and ironic footnote to the trial. The reality is that this verdict proves that the grand jury report should never have described what McQueary witnessed as an “anal rape.” That one phrase dramatically altered the narrative of the entire saga. Without it, I honestly believe that media firestorm is greatly diminished (no one to my knowledge has ever pointed out that the first edition of Sports Illustrated after the grand jury report came out had exactly zero hard news stories on the scandal), Paterno and Penn State are not the only focus, and Paterno at least survives long enough to get the hearing he deserved.
Most people, even in the news media, are also unaware that there was only one other allegation of actual rape (interestingly the mother of that victim does not blame Penn State or Paterno at all) in the grand jury report, which is probably why the prosecutors stretched too far on the McQueary incident. All of the other most egregious allegations came about because new victims came forward after all of the initial publicity. All of the many accusers at trial created the misimpression that there was a mountain of evidence at the time of Paterno’s firing. This just wasn’t the case.
Similarly, people I speak to have a very difficult time separating what we now know about what a monster Sandusky is and what information Paterno apparently had at the time when he decided all that he had to do was notify his superiors. Based on the current evidence, all Paterno knew was that a graduate assistant had sort of witnessed Sandusky engaging in highly inappropriate contact of a sexual nature in a Penn State shower. There is no existing proof that Paterno knew of any other allegations and certainly didn’t have the full context of Sandusky’s actions we all unfortunately have now.
This leads to the next misunderstanding surrounding how easy it would have been for Paterno or anyone else to pin a child molester label on Sandsky. Not only were there no other concurrent allegations (as far as we currently know, Penn State football was unaware of the 1998 investigation into an incident which prosecutors deemed unchargeable), but Sandusky was a local hero and ran a huge charity on which thousands of people relied. A false charge of child molester would have been devastating to many people and irreversible. It has been presumed that Paterno and others at Penn State looked the other way on Sandusky out of fear of damaging their precious program, but there are other rational interpretations of their hesitancy to go public.
It is also important to point out that, while he didn’t go public with McQueary’s story, contrary to widespread perception, Paterno did indeed go to the police (the head of the campus police) and his superior, just as the law required him to do so. Most people are as unaware of the basic fact as they are that Sandusky was a FORMER Penn State assistant at the time McQueary came to him. In Paterno’s mind Sandusky was no longer his responsibility.
Most people I speak to about this presume that Paterno took part in a cover up and placed the reputation of his football team over the well being of defenseless children. But just to be clear, as of today, there is zero evidence to back up this allegation. While numerous email are being made public which indicate other Penn State officials may have participated in a cover up, there is not even one relevant mention of Joe Paterno.
If people still want to think that the crimes of Jerry Sandusky were really the fault of Joe Paterno or someone else, that is fine with me. People are entitled to their own opinions. They just should have all the facts before they come to their conclusions. Unfortunately, in this case, very few people, even in the news media, are aware of all of them.
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