The Paterno family released a report this weekend that ripped apart the Freeh report and tried to restore the once-impecable reputation of Joe Paterno. The report, unsurprisingly, claimed that Paterno did not participate in a conspiracy to cover up Sandusky’s crimes due to fear of bad publicity, and that the Freeh report jumped to the wrong conclusions.
The Freeh report concludes that Paterno knew about the 1998 investigation, citing emails sent by university officials. In addition, the Freeh report also noted that Spanier and Curley were ready to report Sandusky after the 2001 incident until Curley and Paterno had talked it over. However, the Paterno report refutes many of the points made by Freeh. The report says that Freeh made a lot of assumptions based on three emails, and that the evidence provided was not enough to determine that Paterno made any attempt to hide information or hinder any investigation, among other things.
While the Penn State fan in me wants to take everything written in the Paterno report as true, I know that it doesn’t work that way. The report was commissioned by the Paterno family, after all; it was no surprise that the report would be favorable Paterno. While the Paterno report may tell a story that Penn State fans want to hear, it doesn’t make it any more (or less) true than the Freeh report. It’s not exactly fair for the Penn State faithful to completely dismiss the Freeh report for editorializing on facts while embracing the Paterno report that used the same facts to show that Paterno didn’t participate in a cover up.
What we have now are two different versions of the same story. Both are based on the same facts, yet both draw very different conclusions about Paterno’s role in the scandal. It’s quite possible that the truth is somewhere between the Paterno and Freeh reports, but we may never actually find out because we have yet to read a report that doesn’t make broad assertions based on circumstantial evidence.
In essence, both reports only offer an opinion of what happened while trying to proclaim it as the absolute truth. The reality of the situation is that there is not enough evidence either way to know what exactly happened back in 1998 and 2001, and there may never be enough evidence to know the entire story. Still, it’s troubling knowing that these supposedly thorough reports are making strong accusations with very little evidence to back up these claims. Freeh certainly failed in his report to make a convincing argument, and it’s hard to say that the Paterno’s were anymore successful with their report.
We’re in a very similar position to the one we were in three mornings ago. We’ll never know the absolute truth of Paterno’s involvement in the cover up, and it’s a shame. Both reports could only reach conclusions based on circumstantial evidence, and it would be ridiculous to declare one report as fact while completely dismissing the other one. Because in reality, neither one is completely factual and only contain shades of the truth behind hefty editorialization.
We may never know the truth. I think it’s time to accept that hard reality.