Part One: The Philadelphia Inquirer Mangles the Flawed Freeh Report
What do you do when reporters from a major metropolitan daily newspaper—in this case, The Philadelphia Inquirer—demonstrate that they are completely incapable of reading a published report—in this case The Freeh Report—and providing their readers with a coherent summary of its contents? What do you do when the egregious misreading of that report by these reporters presents its readers a very false picture of how officials at Penn State handled Mike McQueary’s allegations of child molestation by Jerry Sandusky in February 2001? Perhaps you would recommend that the Philadelphia Inquirer receive the “death penalty” and not be permitted to publish its sludge for a full year!
Readers of my website might recall that, on 9 February 2012, I wrote a scathing critique titled “Incompetent Journalists at the Philadelphia Inquirer Slandered Joe Paterno”. Especially outrageous was the Inquirer’s 4 December 2011 editorial, which asserted: “Instead of alerting authorities, university officials and staff participated in what has all the markings of a cover-up. Their dismissal of the reported rape of a boy in a locker-room shower as mere ‘horsing around’ was an outrageous example of a mind-set that the university must now eradicate…”
As we now know, thanks to my investigation into that “reported rape,” the Editorial Board’s outrage was misplaced, directed at a pseudo-event created by the person who falsely summarized McQueary’s testimony in the grand jury presentment. As I made very clear in my article, “Three False Assertions by the Grand Jury turned the Press and Public against Joe Paterno and Penn State,” McQueary’s first-hand sworn testimony contradicted the summary of his testimony found in the widely reported grand jury report.
McQueary’s first-hand testimony contained his assertion that he “did not see insertion,” He also insisted that he never used the words “anal” or “rape”– since day one. Finally, McQueary testified that he never used the words “anal intercourse,” “anal sex,” or “rape” when reporting what he saw to Paterno, Curley and Schultz. In fact, the jurors who convicted Sandusky multiple times found him not guilty of the charge of anal rape of Victim 2.
The Philadelphia Inquirer never took any steps to correct the record, notwithstanding my repeated emails to its reporters, columnists and editors.
Nevertheless, one longs for the abysmally poor journalism practiced by the Inquirer then, especially after reading the garbage that is found under the Inquirer’s front page headline for Sunday, 15 July 2012: “The Penn State Paper Trail.”
Consider the first two paragraphs of that article: “Three days after Mike McQueary saw Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in a shower in 2001, two top administrators at Pennsylvania State University had begun to craft a plan.”
“They would not notify authorities.”
The reporters who reached this conclusion—Jeremy Roebuck and Craig R. McCoy—cited a memo dated 2/12/2001, written by Penn State Vice President Gary Schulz as proof. The memo states: “Talked with TMC [Athletic Director Tim Curley] reviewed 1998 history.
- agreed TMC will discuss with JVP [Joe Paterno] + advise we think TMC should meet w JS [Jerry Sandusky] on Friday.
- unless he ‘confesses’ to having a problem, TMC will indicate we need to have DPW [Dept. of Public Welfare] review the matter as an independent agency concerned w child welfare
- TMC will keep me posted.”
If this memo supposedly proves that “They would not notify authorities,” my first questions for Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy are these:
1. What were the chances of Jerry Sandusky actually confessing?
2. Has Sandusky ever confessed?
3. If the probability of gaining his confession was extremely low, doesn’t that mean (according to the very memo you cite) that the next step would be to tell Sandusky that this matter will be turned over to the Department of Public Welfare?
4. Is there any evidence in the memo to indicate that Schulz and Curley had no intention of carrying out their threat?”
5. If the Schultz’s 12 February 2001 memo proves, as you allege, that “They would not notify authorities,” why did Schultz call the University’s outside legal counsel on 11 February 2001 to discuss “Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse? Why waste the time, if you have no intention of reporting the abuse?
Here’s another set of questions:
1. When you wrote, “The decision not to contact authorities was made final two weeks later in a flurry of e-mails among Curley, Schultz and then university president Graham B. Spanier,” did you actually read those e-mails before you went off the deep accusatory end?
After all, Schultz’s hand written notes for a meeting on 2/25/01 include the steps that are to be taken concerning Sandusky: “3) Tell chair of Board of Second Mile 2) Report to Dept. of Welfare. 1) Tell JS to avoid bringing children alone into Lasch Bldg who’s the chair??”
2. Is there anything in those notes that indicates Schultz, Curley and Spanier decided not to report to the Department of Welfare?
The next day’s e-mail from Schultz to Curley says: “Tim, I’m assuming that you’ve got the ball to 1) talk with the subject ASAP regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility; 2) contacting the chair of the Charitable Organization; and 3) contacting the Dept. of Welfare.”
3. Is there anything in that e-mail, which indicates that Schultz, Curley, and Spanier had made the decision not to report to authorities?
4. Again, I ask, did you actually read the material you reported on?
Readers who actually think about what they are reading will have noticed that Schultz’s notes for 2/25/01 and his e-mail of 2/26/01 contain no reference to any confession by Jerry Sandusky. They simply state a plan of action, which includes reporting to the Department of Welfare—as Pennsylvania State law requires. To that extent, these notes and e-mail actually sever the link that Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy attempt to create between Schultz’s notes of 2/12/01 and the “flurry of e-mails” two weeks later which “made final” their decision not to report Sandusky to the authorities.
In fact, it’s Curley’s e-mail to Schultz and Spanier on 2/27/01 which reintroduces the idea of a confession by Sandusky. As will be shown below, Curley is uncomfortable about going to everyone but Sandusky, “the person involved.” Here’s the relevant portion of Curley’s e-mail:
“After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday—I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps. I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved. I think I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell him about the information we received. I would plan to tell him we are aware of the first situation. I would indicate we feel there is a problem and we want to assist the individual to get professional help. Also, we feel the responsibility at some point soon to inform his organization and [sic] maybe the other one about the situation. If he is cooperative we would work with him to handle informing the organization. If not, we do not have a choice and will inform the two groups. Additionally, I will let him know that his guests are not permitted to use our facilities. I need some help on this one. What do you think about this approach?”
Curley’s e-mail not only reintroduces the idea of a confession by Sandusky, but also implies that if Sandusky agrees to get professional help the Department of Welfare would not be notified. Spanier and Schultz not only agree with Curley’s proposal, but also praise it for being “humane.”
Thus, all three seemed prepared to violate Pennsylvania’s law to report allegations of sexual abuse if Sandusky admitted his problem and agreed to seek professional help. Presumably, that plan was designed to prevent more “incidents” like those of ’98 and ’01 while rescuing a friend. (I condemn this approach, but understand it.)
In fact, Spanier admits: “The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we become vulnerable for not having reported it. But that can be assessed down the road.”
But, again, I must ask: What is the probability that Sandusky will confess and agree to professional help. I believe that it was a lead pipe cinch that Sandusky would not confess.
Consequently, if Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schultz stick to Curley’s revised plan, , these officials must report McQueary’s allegation to the Department of Welfare when Sandusky fails to confess.
Yet, that’s not the conclusion reached by the authors of the Freeh Report. In its grotesquely erroneous “gotcha” moment, the report asserts: “A reasonable conclusion from Spanier’s email statement that “[t]he only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it” is that Spanier, Schultz and Curley were agreeing not to report Sandusky’s activity.”
No, that’s not a reasonable conclusion! Absolutely not! It totally ignores that part of Curley’s plan to report to the Department of Welfare in the extremely probable event that Sandusky refuses to confess and seek treatment.
Clearly, the Freeh Report has overreached. And I can’t avoid the suspicion that this overreach led to another—the barely supported conclusion that the need “to avoid the consequences of bad publicity” explains the cover up.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the Freeh Report’s erroneous “gotcha” moment—which specifically identifies the day when the cover-up by Spanier, Schultz and Curley commenced—excludes Joe Paterno.
Perhaps as a silver lining in its dark cloud of journalistic malpractice, Messrs. Roebuck and McCoy also have little to say about Joe Paterno. Appropriately so. Nevertheless, they appear to not only have swallowed the unreasonable gotcha conclusion reached by the Freeh Report, but also to have attempted to work backward from that false conclusion in order to demonstrate that the decision not to report actually can be traced back to Schultz’s notes dated 2/12/01. It’s shoddy journalism at its worst!
An unbiased reading of the sketchy evidence would indicate that the decision not to report McQueary’s allegations to the Department of Welfare occurred after 7 March 2001, the day Curley actually met with Sandusky.
The available evidence suggests that Curley never confronted Sandusky and Sandusky confessed to nothing. Worse, Sandusky (brazenly?) offered to give Curley the name of the boy who was in the Lasch building shower with him that night—and Curley refused to take it.
If this information is correct (a very big “if”), then, according to the plan all three agreed to, one of them was obligated to report Sandusky to the Department of Welfare. But that didn’t happen and we still do not know why—even after the publication of the Freeh Report.
In the Freeh Report [p. 77], Spanier claims that Curley subsequently told him that Sandusky had confessed and agreed to get professional help. But, we know that didn’t happen, so somebody’s lying.
Moreover, in that same Freeh Report [p. 78], the lawyer representing the Director of the Second Mile charity claims that Curley told his client that “nothing inappropriate occurred.” That’s the story being told by Spanier, Schultz and Curley today – and they’re sticking to it.
(Personally, I find it difficult to believe that both Curley and Schultz came to the conclusion that “nothing inappropriate occurred,” especially after Joe Paterno reported to them McQueary’s allegations of something sexual between Sandusky and a young boy, and especially given the fact that both of them knew about the investigation of Sandusky in 1998. Paterno’s report, alone, should have triggered an automatic message to the Department of Welfare.)
Let’s hope that the trial of Curley and Schultz brings resolution to that assertion