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November 10, 2011
Further Observations on the Penn State Case
In perusing the responses to my article, "Joe Paterno and Bishop Finn," I am intrigued by the readers who seem to have missed my point entirely. Their sentiments are perhaps best summed by the respondent who commented, "Rationalizations for cowardly, self-interested, and criminal behavior are so prevalent in this essay, that I thought a liberal wrote it."
No, to clarify, the essay was written by someone who has investigated several major cover-ups and who has read the grand jury testimony in this one. What I described in the article is how people do behave, not how they should behave. The latter should be obvious.
What intrigues me about the Penn State case is just how many people over so many years failed to do the right thing. In 1998, for instance, Jerry Sandusky confessed to hugging a child while both were naked in the shower. This was investigated thoroughly by the Penn State police and the State Department of Public Welfare. "I wish I were dead," Sandusky told the investigators. For their part, they told him "not to shower with any child again." That was it.
Sandusky quickly broke his promise. In 2000, a janitor saw Sandusky performing oral sex on a boy in the shower. Horrified, the janitor told everyone else on the janitorial staff. He then told his supervisor who, according to the Grand Jury report, "told him to whom he should report the incident, if he chose to report it." The janitor identified Sandusky as the culprit to his supervisor, but neither one reported it. Nor did the other janitors. They allegedly feared for their jobs if they did.
There are eight boys cited in the Grand Jury report. They typically range between about nine and thirteen or so at the time of the incident. In 2002, in the most notorious case, 28 year-old graduate assistant Mike McQueary saw a boy of about 10 "with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky." Sandusky and the boy saw him, and McQueary fled in shock.
McQueary called his father, who advised him to come home and report what he had seen to Paterno. McQueary did that the next morning in person. He was reportedly very upset. Concerned, Paterno had his boss, Athletic Director Tim Curley, come to Paterno's house the next day, and Paterno shared McQueary's story. McQueary was told by Curley that the incident had been reported to Sandusky's youth organization and that his keys had been taken away, but the police were never called to question McQueary. It was with Curley and Senior Penn State VP Gary Schulz that the reporting broke down. Both were accused by the grand jury of lying in their testimony and of failure to report.
There would be other incidents in the years after 2002, none quite so thoroughly exposed as the 2002 incident. All in all, at least a dozen Penn State employees, probably many more, had to know what Sandusky had done, and no one called the police on him after 1998. Most of these people, like Paterno, were decent human beings who were appalled by Sandusky's behavior. How they responded is not unique to Penn State. It is the way of human nature. Several respondents to my initial article are confident they would have done better. Maybe they would have. The odds suggest otherwise.
I have worked with James and Elizabeth Sanders on the TWA Flight 800 case, Kathleen Janoski and Nolanda Butler Hill on the Ron Brown case, Lt. Col Terry Lakin on his case, former Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline in his fight against Planned Parenthood. Ask any of them how many people within their respective institutions stood by their side and publicly supported them, and you will be disheartened by the answer.
Most hypocritical of all in these cases are the media. In each of the cases cited, the media sided with the institution and against the whistleblowers. In Kline's case, the hypocrisy is most glaring and relevant. What he had discovered and what he tried to report was the failure of Planned Parenthood and George Tiller's Wichita clinic to report cases where girls 14 and under were being subjected to abortions, as often as not to destroy the evidence of rape, only to be returned to the environment where the rape took place. For his efforts, the Kansas City Star and the Wichita Eagle hounded him out of office.
The revelation yesterday that former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius's offices destroyed evidence that Kline had gathered to charge Planned Parenthood with 23 felony counts netted the following headline in the Star, "Kansas judge dismisses felony charges against Planned Parenthood."
Only later in the copy do we learn that "all copies of key documents needed to support those charges no longer exist, including a set destroyed in 2009 by Steve Six, who then was the Kansas attorney general" and later still that "The Kansas Department of Health and Environment destroyed the original records in 2005."
I will ask the reader to forgive me my cynicism. I know heroism when I see it because there is so little of it. An outraged blog post does not a hero make.
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