Nearly 300 Joe Paterno supporters and anti-Board of Trustees crusaders met and mingled last night at the State College Days Inn for a program called “Upon Further Review” organized by the movement’s leaders.
Presentations from the ostensive leaders in the so-called “truth” movement, who believe that Penn State’s leadership has failed drastically over the last two years since the Jerry Sandusky fallout, filled the evening. If you’ll indulge me in a little of my own bias, the conversation was quite compelling at times.
I have been somewhat outspoken in my criticism of the pickup truck protests and the Centre Daily Times attack ads that, in my mind, dilute an otherwise genuine and largely accurate message. In any activist movement it’s important to appear attractive to as many skeptics as possible if you want to convince anyone of anything. The methods I just mentioned, in my estimation, turn off many people from wanting to learn the actual facts of the Jerry Sandusky mess instead of the spin that has pervaded America.
This event, on the other hand, was a great way to continue the conversation on a complex issue.
Franco Harris served as the host of the evening, although his role was mainly auxiliary, offering commentary in between presentations. March for Truth organizer Eileen Morgan kicked off the event with some thoughts on Mike McQueary and his evolving story about what he actually saw and reported on that 2001 night in the Lasch Building coaches shower room. But first, she had a disclaimer.
“I don’t find any fault with Mike McQueary,” Morgan said. “I don’t believe we should be judging him because we all have very different life experiences.”
However, Morgan was quick to point out how McQueary has been inconsistent with the terms he uses to describe what he saw Jerry Sandusky doing that night.
“His story has changed about what he saw that night,” Morgan said, citing the major difference between describing “something inappropriate” and “rape.” Of course, the national perception is that Mike McQueary reported he saw Jerry Sandusky raping a boy in the shower to Joe Paterno and other Penn State administrators, but in actuality, those explicit terms were never used. McQueary’s grand jury testimony is also much more graphic than any other testimony he’s offered since — which, to many, is cause for concern.
Investigator and NotPSU blogger Ray Blehar was next up. Blehar’s research focuses on a wide range of topics, including corruption in Penn State’s administration and failures in the Second Mile and the Department of Public Welfare. On this night, Blehar focused in how Penn State’s power structure was largely responsible for the failures before and after Sandusky was arrested — calling the presentation “Power, Lies, and Deception” — and questioned how the university’s leadership could have been taken by surprise when the grand jury presentment came out in November 2011.
Blehar produced a chart of 75 people at Penn State that he says knew about the Sandusky incident during or before May 2011, which would certainly make for a pretty lousy coverup.
While Blehar’s point is well taken, it’s not unfair to question the complete legitimacy of this chart. Number 38 (the second 38 — Blehar accidentally lists two) says that Nicholas P. Jones knew about the Sandusky investigation in May 2011. Anyone who has been following Penn State’s administration carefully knows that Jones, our provost, was only hired by Penn State seven months ago, making Blehar’s claim impossible.
Blehar noted one of the board’s main faults was its failure to stick up for its employees and adequately investigate claims after the grand jury report became public.
“Any competent board in the world would defend their people – say ‘We’re not going to defend Jerry Sandusky but we’ll defend our employees,’ ” Blehar said. “From November 5 to November 9, the Board didn’t check facts or interview persons involved. The legal team didn’t review any of the child abuse reporting statutes.”
“I hope Kane and the Feds get to the truth…If they don’t, we will continue to press on.”
The final presentation of the night came from none other than John Ziegler, who flew in from California to attend the event. Be it because of his natural ability as an orator or the quality of his work on FramingPaterno.com, Ziegler stole the show and earned a standing ovation at the end. Of course, his presentation focused on where the media went wrong in reporting this case during the crucial first week after Sandusky was arrested. Ziegler blames the sports media for using Paterno as a way to generate ratings.
“I couldn’t find anything nationally about this case during those first two days because the sports media had other things to do – games were being played – and outside of State College, people didn’t remember Sandusky,” Ziegler said. “And there was no connection at that point to Joe Patenro. At that point, Joe Paterno was being praised by the district attorney for his actions…The media didn’t have a celebrity at that point. If Kim Kardashian had been involved, maybe they would have had a story.”
Ziegler also pointed to the heinousness of child abuse as a reason this situation got out of hand so quickly. Because of the nature of Sandusky’s crimes, he says people were afraid to ask the important questions — including Penn State, which recently paid out $59.7 million in settlements.
“We’re living in bizarro world where we’re supposed to interpret victims statements without questioning if they happened, and even if they say it didn’t happen, it happened. That’s bizarro world,” Ziegler said. “They’ve got 10 people saying Jerry Sandusky raped them? Well then it must be true! But in fact, only two of the victims say he actually raped them.”
A panel including Ryan Bagwell, Rob Tribeck, Ceil Masella, Brian Masella, and Jon Dandrea followed Ziegler, but I had to get going at that point. I plan to cover Bagwell’s amazing work in obtaining important documents from Penn State — or in many cases, trying to obtain documents and getting blocked by Penn State’s lawyers –using the Right to Know law tomorrow.
Like I mentioned in the lead, while I didn’t agree with every statement, events like these are great for idea sharing and continuing the conversation. But the unfortunate question remains: Does anyone outside of this dedicated group of alumni still care?
That’s certainly not a knock on the effort. But the fact remains that most of the people that need to hear the information either don’t care (mostly) or won’t listen. Penn State and Joe Paterno’s fate is already sealed in the mind of the public at large. Sure, a few apathetic minds can be changed here or there, but the bell can’t be unrung. We can’t travel back in time to November 9, 2011 or July 12, 2012 and force the Board of Trustees to defend our honor.
Nonetheless, empowering people with information is a noble goal, and that’s exactly what happened last night. Here’s hoping that momentum continues in respectful and meaningful ways.