At the behest of John Ziegler, owner of the website named “Framing Paterno” (to which this writer is affiliated), a reputable polling organization, Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research (WPA Opinion Research), recently conducted a poll of one thousand Americans from across the country. It attempted to assess just how well they knew important details of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal that has rocked The Pennsylvania State University and the legacy of Joe Paterno. The results are in and the pervasive ignorance exposed by the poll is astounding.
Granted, ignorance about the Sandusky scandal is small potatoes, when compared with the fact that, in March 2003 (the month when the U.S. invaded Iraq), 51 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the fact that 63 percent of Republicans still believed, as recently as June of this year, that Iraq possessed weapons mass destruction when the invasion occurred.
Although small potatoes, when compared with the ignorance that fueled an illegal, immoral invasion of another country, interest in the Sandusky scandal once ran high. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in November 2011, during the period of November 17-20, “the American public deemed the Penn State scandal the most compelling news story by a wide margin.”
Yet, high interest by the news media and public, following the publication of the grand jury report, didn’t translate into a critical examination of that report. Instead, the press and public thought the “news” of the grand jury report guaranteed the “truth” of the grand jury report. Consequently, they failed to notice that the most riveting and compelling assertion in the report — the assertion that Mike McQueary “saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky” — was a lie.
Yes, the individual who summarized McQueary’s grand jury testimony lied. Moreover, ignorance of that lie persisted until January 2012, when I demonstrated that Mike McQueary never said what the liar claimed he said. Unfortunately, my article hardly changed anything and the big lie of Sandusky raping Victim 2 remained lodged in press reports and the public’s memory. In fact, the lie appears to be alive and well up to this very day.
According to WPA Opinion Research, only 10 percent of the Americans polled wrote “true” (the correct answer), when asked to respond to the statement: “Jerry Sandusky was acquitted of the rape charge allegation [supposedly] made by Mike McQueary, the witness in the Sandusky shower allegation.” Forty percent incorrectly wrote “false” and another 46 percent were unsure. In short, 86 percent of Americans polled didn’t know the correct answer.
Similarly, when responding to the statement that “Jerry Sandusky had already retired as a football coach when he was found in the Penn State locker room shower with a young boy,” only 23 percent of the respondents correctly answered “true.” Forty-one percent gave the incorrect answer when they said “false” and 34 percent said they were unsure. In a word, 75 percent of Americans didn’t have a clue.
The second big lie, which once again inflamed righteous indignation against Joe Paterno and other officials at Penn State, was the lie put forth by Louis Freeh and supposedly supported by the evidence found on pages 74-75 of his Freeh Report.
As Mr. Freeh wrote in his press release: “Based on the evidence, the only known, intervening factor between the decision made on February 25, 2001 by Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schulz to report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare, and then agreeing not to do so on February 27th, was Mr. Paterno’s February 26th conversation with Mr. Curley.” In a word, Mr.Freeh was accusing Paterno of orchestrating the cover-up
Here’s the problem with that accusation: On February 27th, Curly, Schultz and Spanier still had reporting the incident to the Department of Public Welfare as part of their plan.
Read Tim Curley’s email of February 27th: “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?”
Clearly, according to Curley’s email, if Sandusky doesn’t admit his problem and agree to get help, he certainly will be reported to the Department of Public Welfare. Ask yourself: “What is the probability of Sandusky admitting his problem and agreeing to seek help? Has he ever admitted to his problem?
Thus, if reporting to the Department of Public Welfare was still part of the plan on February 27th, Paterno’s February 26th conversation with Curley cannot possibly be interpreted to be part of a cover-up.
Now, I’m not totally ruling out the possibility that a cover-up occurred sometime after February 27th and might have involved all of the officials that the Freeh Report has strained so dishonestly to condemn. After all, no one ever submitted a report to the Department of Public Welfare. But I have no evidence to support even my slim suspicions of a cover-up and neither does Mr. Freeh. Rather than rush to judgment, as the Freeh Report has, we should await the results of the upcoming trial of Curley and Schultz.
But, Mr. Freeh’s lie about a cover-up engineered by Joe Paterno is the second big lie in the Sandusky scandal committed by an official who is presumed to enjoy the public’s trust.
Having their imaginations inflamed by such big lies, the press and public appear capable of believing anything. Thus, according to the poll conducted by WPA Opinion Research, 26 percent of the individuals incorrectly believe that the Freeh Report “found emails written by Joe Paterno directing a cover-up of the scandal.” Another 53 percent said they were unsure.
Only 25 percent of Americans polled correctly knew that “Joe Paterno arranged for the person in charge of the Penn State campus police to be informed of the shower allegation involving Jerry Sandusky. “ Twenty-four percent incorrectly answered that the statement was “false” and 48 percent were unsure.
Only 15 percent correctly wrote “true” when told that “The Freeh Report did not speak to the five Penn State people most closely connected to the case.” Fifteen percent incorrectly wrote “false” and an astounding 65 percent were unsure.’’
Finally, an astounding 28 percent of Americans believe that Paterno was accused of molesting children and another 15 percent are unsure. (Invoking the language of the great H.L. Mencken, we’re probably talking about “morons” here, aren’t we?)
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