Joe Paterno's family pitches its own report in his defense: So what?

PHOTO: DISNEY-ABC Katie Couric talks with Sue Paterno, who says she too was duped by Jerry Sandusky.
PHOTO: DISNEY-ABC Katie Couric talks with Sue Paterno, who says she too was duped by Jerry Sandusky.
Posted: February 13, 2013

HERE'S WHAT we learned Monday from watching Sue Paterno on "Katie."

Sue Paterno loved her husband dearly.

Here's what we learned after the show's host, Katie Couric, interviewed three of Paterno's five children.

His kids loved him dearly, too.

There will be no happy ending to this story. If ever there is an ending. No matter who argues what, there will be no clarity as to what Joe Paterno knew, what he didn't want to know, or whether he hindered investigations of Jerry Sandusky's atrocious conduct that might have spared some victims.

Those who wish to believe Joe Paterno was not part of a cover-up will cling to the family's lengthy and sometimes convincing rebuttal of the Freeh report findings released over the weekend. Those who believe that Freeh's conclusions were unavoidable and obvious based on his findings will continue to do so, discounting former FBI profiler Jim Clemente's criticisms and alternate conclusions.

The only thing that appears definite is that it's not over for Penn State, its alumni, the people of Happy Valley, or the damaged legacy of JoePa. The long process of reaching settlements with the victims has just begun. Already the governor of Pennsylvania is suing the NCAA for what he deems unfair and oppressive sanctions, and there seems a likelihood that the Paterno family's report will lead to another suit as well.

So what were Monday and Sunday about? It was about a reset, a chance for Sue Paterno and her family to present an alternate reality to the one Freeh presented, the one asserting that Paterno conspired to hinder an earlier investigation of Sandusky that could have spared some of his victims.

Monday's Joe would never do such a thing. His morals would not allow him to do that, his family said. "I can tell you unequivocally now - based on our report, based on our independent experts - that Joe Paterno never hindered any investigation," Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers told Couric.

Clearly the most significant part of the 1-hour show was after the family appeared, when Couric introduced Clemente, the former FBI predator expert the family hired to examine Freeh's methodology. Wisely, Clemente didn't spend much time on the show critiquing Freeh's findings as he did in the Paterno family's exhaustive report, instead emphasizing how Sandusky is the nightmare model for parents hoping to protect their children.

Clemente called Sandusky "one of the most dangerous child offenders he has studied" because of his ability to gain stature and infiltrate. "Grooming," he said, "is a bunch of innocent-looking behaviors that create a bond between the adult and the child.

"But it can also be aimed at the parents and the guardians of the children and the community at large," Clemente said. "So when you have someone like Sandusky and he's out in the community, and he starts a foundation for children, the people looking for the monster predators, they look right past the guy who's right in front of them because they think he's helping children.

"What Sandusky did was test the children a little at a time. Putting his hand on their legs, taking them on trips. Having them stay over at the house. Tucking them in at night. And these behaviors were always couched in other behavior. To make it seem more innocent. So if the child revolted or if anybody caught him at this, you would think he was just doing something normal, being a nice guy.

"People, when they look for the monster predator, they look right past the guy in front of them."

Sue Paterno said she was duped by Sandusky, that she and her husband dismissed his quirky behavior as "Jerry being Jerry." This defense has energized Paterno's defenders and enraged his critics, but I will admit I have certainly been guilty of that oversight on several occasions in my life, both as a potential victim and later, as a parent.

No harm was done. But that was a matter of luck, not vigilance.

Did Paterno obfuscate? Or was he simply the out-of-touch old man he and others sold him as when Sandusky finally was arraigned. Clemente said in his report the evidence is scant enough for that to be plausible. Most of those who embrace the Freeh report disagree vehemently.

"One of those who testified at the trial said when [Sandusky] was playing around with them in the pool, he was actually fondling them," Clemente said. "Right in front of the parents and the community. And nobody suspected him."

Sue Paterno said her own children played with Sandusky in the hotel pools where Penn State stayed for bowl games.

"Let me ask you this, Katie," Sue Paterno said at one point. "Jerry adopted children, the experts vetted him. He had foster children, the experts vetted him. The executive director of Second Mile is a child psychologist.

"If the experts don't know, how can we know?"

Because Joe was told? Ah, again the arguments over what, when and how much. This is not over, not by a long shot. Aside from Clemente's helpful tutorial Monday, nothing much has changed as it pertains to Joe Paterno. Including that his family still dearly loves him.


Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

Columns: philly.com/

SamDonnellon

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