The Paterno Family Responds

February 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm 24 comments


Sue Paterno (right) on the Katie Couric show on Monday, Feb. 11.

Those of us who work on The Penn Stater got together first thing this morning to talk about the latest development in the Sandusky scandal—the release of the Paterno family-commissioned rebuttal to the Freeh Report—and to figure out how to accommodate it in the next issue.

As I’m sure you know, ESPN devoted its Outside the Lines program yesterday to a new report in which four key figures, including former U.S. attorney general Dick Thornburgh and former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, blast the findings of the Freeh Report. (The other two experts are a Johns Hopkins expert on sexual disorders, Fred Berlin, and the Paterno family attorney, Wick Sollers.) The ESPN segment coincided with the launch of the website, where the newly released analysis can be found, and a segment on ABC-TV this afternoon in which Katie Couric interviews Sue Paterno ’62, three of the Paterno children, and two former Penn State football players, among others.

The Paterno family, in other words, is fighting back—fighting to get its side of the story heard and to refute the Freeh report’s claim that Joe Paterno helped cover up Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.

Before this latest news hit, we had thought we were pretty much finished with the March/April issue. We were putting the final touches on two of the features and my column, while all of the other pages had already been put to bed. But this morning we agreed pretty quickly that we’ll need to rework the “Fallout” section, which is the department in each issue where we put ongoing news about the scandal. We’re adding a page to that section, and instead of leading off with Gov. Corbett’s lawsuit against the NCAA, we’ll push that to a later page and instead lead with the news of the Paterno family’s initiative.

Our story will most likely be just a recap of what’s happened in the past 36 hours or so, and it may or may not tell readers anything they don’t already know. But we’re unanimous in our feeling that it has to be there. From a credibility standpoint, if nothing else, we can’t imagine readers flipping through the March/April issue in a couple of weeks and not seeing a word about this.

Bimonthly print magazines generally aren’t the most nimble of media, and this isn’t the first time that developments in the scandal have forced us to scramble. But, to the staff’s credit, they just roll with it.

In the meantime, you can download the new Paterno analysis at If you read nothing else, you might at least check out the section written by Clemente, the FBI guy; he talks quite a bit about how pedophiles operate and offers pragmatic advice for parents and others.

Also at, you’ll find Sue Paterno’s message to Penn State football lettermen, in which she answers the question of what the family hopes to accomplish by its newest efforts:

Is it the return of the statue? The restoration of Joe’s wins? His name on the football stadium? … Joe Paterno’s legacy wasn’t a statue, a winning record or public adulation. … His legacy is his family and you his players. How you live your life speaks louder than any report. The great fathers, husbands and citizens you have become fulfill the dreams Joe had. All that we want — and what I believe we owe the victims, Joe Paterno and everyone who cares about Penn State — is the full record of what happened.

It remains to be seen how much momentum the Paterno family’s efforts might gather. Early media reaction has been mixed at best; Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports and Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN are among those who have been critical, and the Harrisburg Patriot‘s David Jones argues that it’s not about a cover-up anyway—it’s simply about Paterno’s failure to do enough to stop Sandusky.

On the other hand, a Philadelphia media outlet reported today that one Penn State trustee, Alvin Clemens ’59, thinks the trustees should now take a fresh look at the Freeh Report. And Sollers, the Paterno family attorney, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of taking legal action of some sort. What happens from here is anyone’s guess.

Tina Hay, editor

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24 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Linda Berkland  |  February 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    The Paterno family is the epitome of grace and character; everything our board of trustees is NOT! They, as usual, are taking the high road in their response to the hate and vitriol that is being spewed toward them as a result of our board not standing behind them in their hour of need. I am ashamed and embarrassed that they have to go through this after all they’ve done and meant to our university. Still NOT MOVING ON until the board resigns and Penn State is able to restore its glory with some dignity and honor.

  • 2. Wendy Silverwood  |  February 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you Tina.

    EVERYONE that cares about, works with or volunteers with kids AND cares about Penn State must watch Jim Clemente’s video.
    He explains why he decided to analyze the Freeh conclusions.

    This is an incredible learning opportunity.

  • 3. J Moore-Simmons  |  February 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Finally a measured and full report. I hate how the University and the conspiracy theorists jumped to judgement without attending to the multiple facts of the case. Been working with abused children for a long time after a solid education from Penn State and if I filed a report like Freeh, I would have been fired.

  • 4. Mary Cooper  |  February 11, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Can always count on ThePennStater for fair even coverage and look forward to your pages. Unbelievable almost that we in the Penn State community have spent 14 months of ingesting 1sided bashing and condemning from MSM, without a single rebuttal or more thoughtful approach. Now, the Paternos have filled that void. I feel a breath of reasonableness in the air. Shame PSU hasn’t taken a balanced view, instead helping lead this rush to injustice.

  • 5. Angela Bell  |  February 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    I stand solidly with the Paterno family. We have more than 61 years of history against which to measure their motives.

  • 6. Nancy Lee  |  February 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Thank you! It was made clear by Sue Paterno today that when she found Joe’s last written note, it was about any good from this might be raising awareness to this issue (paraphrasing here). And they made it clear that this wasn’t about the statue or wins or even Joe’s reputation. It was about honoring him by doing the right thing. And the truth is always the right thing. I look forward to reading more on this in future issues.

  • 7. Dave Ketchen, '88, '94  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Bravo Alvin Clemens. More trustees need to have the sort of courage that he demonstrated today in breaking ranks

  • 8. Dr. Beverly [Bozsik] Van Citters  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    The Paterno family did Joe proud on the Katie show! How fortunate to have them in the PSU family. The two former players also did a fine job driving home Joe ‘s message. The men are fine examples of the lessons Joe taught. The Paterno family handled the interview with diplomacy, candor, and respect. The Board of Trustees might take note in ‘leadership by example’.

  • 9. Stephen Fotos  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    We do not care about the reaction of the media, which will come around as time passes. We do not care about the reaction of the majority of the Board of Trustees, which will persist in ignoring the obvious. What we care about is electing new trustees, assisting the inevitable lawsuits in any way that we can and lobbying the State Legislature to reform the Board.

    The class, intelligence and courage of the Paterno Team over the past months is in stark contrast to the current administration and Board of Trustees.

  • 10. Donna Marquette  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    I hope the rest of the BoT follows Alvin Clemens lead. The Freeh report needs to be re-reviewed by those members who have actually read it and reviewed for the first time by those who never bothered to read it. Nice to have such well respected people as Thornburgh and Clemente saying what the rest of us who’ve read the report have been saying since July.

  • 11. Anne Weiss (1998)  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    As a survivor of childhood abuse myself, I have been very distressed to hear people, who most likely have never experienced such a horrifying thing, say that Joe should have known what was going on, that he did know what going on, and that he didn’t care about what was going on. From my experience, I can unequivocally say NO, NO, NO. My parents never saw anything. They never heard anything. My abuser was someone they knew well. My parents did care about children. They just weren’t trained to know that me curling up in a ball or me deliberately hurting myself when they went to leave me in the house with my abuser wasn’t a child being difficult…that it really was a desperate plea for help from a 4-year old child too terrified of her abuser to say it in words. My parents weren’t bad people. Coach Paterno wasn’t a bad person. They were normal human beings with little to no way of processing the concept of something so heinous from the few ambiguous pieces they were presented with. Sandusky fooled everybody, including the experts TRAINED to recognize the signs, for years. People pointing the finger and saying ‘well you should have done more’ from the comfort of hindsight don’t realize that this doesn’t help victims, and it certainly draws attention away from the cause of protecting children from future abuse. Sue and the Paterno family have my respect for taking on the difficult task of getting information out there about how to recognize such a heart-wrenching event. I hope somebody listens.

  • 12. Marianne Williams  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Thank you Tina. Yes, this latest development absolutely must be included in AT LEAST the next issue of the Penn Stater. Sue Paterno and the Paterno family are doing what should have been done from the beginning of this mess–searching, digging for the truth. The Nov. 2011 Board of Trustees’ rush to judgement did exactly the opposite. To paraphrase Sue: Only the truth will help the victims. Indeed, that was JoePa’s directive to his family: Find the truth.
    I certainly hope this is the beginning of the tide turning. The BoT needs to revisit its acceptance of the Freeh report. They also need to stand up for our University!
    Once again, the Paterno family shows an enormous amount of character, integrity and honesty in their actions. They make us all Penn State proud!

  • 13. Cindy Shingler  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    This entire mess can be laid directly at the feet of the sitting Board of Trustees, beginning with their total ineptness on 11/9/11. Had they not rushed to fire Joe, and then hire an incompetent group (including several members of the BoT, including Peetz serving on the SIC) to produce the Freeh Report, rush to approve the NCAA sanctions that were based on this flawed report, and then spit in our faces by taking down the statue, none of us would even be having this conversation. The icing on the cake was that the “University” chose to speak out yesterday to support the Freeh Report . . . without even taking the time to read and digest the Paterno report. I thought this was a world-class university, one based in research. Not one person on the BoT or the University administration can even spell the word! THANK GOD FOR THE PATERNOS! They are the ones who truly value the mission and ideals for which this institution was founded!

  • 14. W.J. Bender  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    The Alumni Association abandoned the opportunity to take a leadership role throughout this scandal and in so doing relegated the Penn Stater magazine to afterthought status. By failing to coalesce, actively inform, and organize an alumni position on matters critical to the future of our alma mater, a large measure of the Association’s voice has been lost. I hope the lessons learned through this travail cause introspective appraisal of roles and relationships with both the university and the alumni itself. It doesn’t much matter how you choose to follow this event, as the Association has chosen the role of observer vice participant.

  • 15. lisa donofrio  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    SUCCESS WITH HONOR-wasn’t just a ‘slogan’ `it ‘s a way of life. The alumni have never considered ‘moving on’ without acknowledgement of our past. i am so happy to see the Paterno family- fighting back. Daily thoughts. prayers, and everlasting Penn State Pride in them all! The entrenched members of the Board of Trustees should feel Freeh to move on!!!!! The clemente report alone has done more to prevent future victimization than the commonwealth.thank you, Sue!

  • 16. Karla Wilson  |  February 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Paternos fighting back? No, they are stepping up and doing what University leadership failed to do…seek truth, and serve honorably.

  • 17. John  |  February 11, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Dear Penn State Trustees,

    You may be aware of Trustee Alvin Clemens’ statement today. I am writing to ask you to join with Mr. Clemens. His concerns are valid and his reasons for calling to re-examine the Freeh report are sound.

    Additionally, you have stated numerous times that the Freeh Report was not meant to place blame on anyone and that you have never formally accepted any of its conclusions. However, you have failed at your fiduciary duties as Trustees because the NCAA stated in their press release on 7/23/12 the following :

    “Because Penn State accepted the Freeh Report factual findings, which the university itself commissioned, the NCAA determined traditional investigative proceedings would be redundant and unnecessary.”

    Due to this, unprecedented sanctions were handed down. To tell the alumni that they are free to draw their own conclusions as to the Freeh Report, as you did yesterday on 2/11/2013, would be laughable if it weren’t so sad and irresponsible. Whether you knew the NCAA would act in this way or not is irrelevant. They did, and you are all ultimately responsible as you failed to even thoroughly review the Freeh Report. To suggest otherwise at best suggests incompetence, at worst something much more heinous. You can no longer treat the Freeh Report as irrelevant except for the recommendations made within it. That would only make sense if the NCAA decided to conduct their own investigation and then punished Penn State.

    You would all do well to read the article concerning a scandal at Boston University where they state:

    “Provost Jean Morrison, who co-chaired the task force, said the details in the subcommittee reports were kept confidential to protect the identities of students and staff who testified. She further said the school had been reluctant to publish some allegations the task force could not verify as true.”

    I am only concerned with the last sentence and not the first as Boston University was clearly intelligent and honest enough to know that only those accusations that could be verified deserved reporting as to do otherwise may open the university to libel claims. The Freeh Report, however, clearly states that it is based on circumstantial evidence and “reasonable conclusions.” Of course, as any attorney knows there are dozens of “reasonable conclusions” that can be reached in any case, hence the burden of proof is much higher to obtain a conviction. You allowed the media, NCAA, among others, to reach conclusions that severely damaged the University and yet appear to believe you are not accountable for such actions. You also clearly care so little about your alumni that you will not even engage them in open and honest debates at your meetings. I implore you to reconsider this stance immediately.

    Do you honestly believe we are going to “move on” when so much evidence exists which suggests that the Freeh Report contains enormous factual errors, and you all failed in your fiduciary responsibilities?
    Many thousands upon thousands of Penn State alumni like me stand ready to assist in the search for the truth.

    Thank you for your time,

    Concerned PSU Alum

  • 18. Maribeth Roman Schmidt  |  February 11, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    The Paterno family is what real University leadership looks like. With the release of their report, they fill the obvious void in Penn State leadership and seek the real truth about how a predator like Jerry Sandusky could have harmed so many, and gone undetected for so long. Unlike the manner in which the Trustees commissioned Louis Freeh to create a false narrative intended to back up their rush to judgment, the Paterno’s report does the opposite. Through the use of bona fide experts whose reputations and depth of experience are beyond reproach – former Governor and U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, world-renown FBI pedophile profiler Jim Clemente, and Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine physician and psychiatrist Fred Berlin — the Paterno’s reports reflect a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to a complex societal problem. Clearly, the reports are meant to help the Penn State family, the State College community and the nation at large to better understand and protect children. It is with this new and objective information that we must again — and more forcefully than ever — demand the resignation of all Penn State Trustees who were seated at the time of November 2011, and restore the reputation and legacy of Coach Paterno and our University. This group of Trustees has acted with reckless abandon and callous haste since the very announcement of Jerry Sandusky’s indictment. Having brazenly admitted to never reading their own $6 million Freeh Report, the Board of Trustees has demonstrated time and again that they have no interest in understanding the covert and insidious problem of pedophilia. Their actions, including a manufactured, yet staunchly-opposed “move on” campaign, have exposed an irresponsible and selfish approach to distancing themselves from the truth of this scandal, and unfairly allowing Penn State. If ever there was a time for them to move on, it’s now.

  • 19. Wendy Silverwood  |  February 11, 2013 at 11:00 pm


    “Unfortunately, the press and the public took Freeh’s press conference findings as the definitive facts about the Sandusky Scandal and the fault for this was squarely on the Penn State Board of Trustees for failing to carry out their fiduciary responsibility — which was to look out for the best interests of the University.

    Giving Freeh permission to publish this report and to make public statements about the report’s contents, prior to a review, were egregious errors and the members of the Special Investigations Task Force of the BOT should be forced to immediately resign for the damage inflicted by their poor decisions.

    The members of the Special Investigations Task Force are: Kenneth C.Frazier, Ronald J. Tomalis, H. Jesse Arnelle, Mark H. Dambly, Keith W. Eckel, and Karen B. Peetz.”

  • 20. psuforever  |  February 11, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Very well said, Maribeth Schmidt and Wendy Silverwood! All of the sitting BoT at the time of Joe’s firing should immediately resign, especially Frazier, Tomalis, Arnelle, Dambly, Eckel and Peetz! We call for these resignations because we believe in Joe’s motto, “Success with Honor”, and none of these individuals have any credibility or honor, considering the findings of the Paterno report. Please keep in mind that the above named members of the Board of Trustees were intimately involved in producing the Freeh report. What part of “conflict of interest” is not understood by the Board? This was a self-serving report, that Penn State paid for! It is way beyond fiduciary irresponsibility, and quite honestly something that should go to the courts!

  • 21. Mark Z  |  February 12, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Thank goodness someone is fighting for Penn State and doing it the right way – with experts, independence and a true desire to seek the truth. Hopefully the Board and the NCAA take the time to read these and reconsider their positions. About time due process and level heads prevail so that the more aren’t harmed by inaccurate and vindictive actions.

  • 22. Tammy  |  February 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Kudos to the Paternos for remaining silent for a year while their independent report was being conducted. I have yet to read the entire report. I was so struck with Sue Paterno’s comments on the “Katie” show about how much she loves Penn State and always will. I’m inspired by her loyalty and hoping to regain my warm feelings for Dear Old State. Through the firestorm of the past year, the Paternos have been the epitome of what Joe likely would want his legacy to be – seeking the truth and helping to prevent acts like those Jerry Sandusky committed from ever happening again.

    I also commend the men who played for Joe, who are living his legacy not only by speaking up about the coach’s influence, but by living lives as honorable men.

  • 23. Jillers  |  February 13, 2013 at 11:17 am

    The Paternos have done more in 2 days to educate the public on the silent and heinous crime of pedophilia, than the Freeh Report, the NCAA, and the inept Board of Trustees have done in the last 15 months. God bless the Paterno family! Such a class act. I have an abiding faith that the wrong done to Dear Old State will be made right. Facts are stubborn things.

  • 24. Jay Paterno Goes Back to Class « The Penn Stater Magazine  |  February 15, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    […] Jay talked honestly about how he and his family decided which TV and radio shows to speak to in their recent media blitz, and how to approach each: understanding the demographics of each show’s audience, preparing […]

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