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Governor Corbett Flip-Flops on Paterno, Says He Shouldn’t Have Been Fired

Just two days after enduring one of the biggest embarrassments in the history of Pennsylvania politics, Tom Corbett is bizarrely and brazenly trying to rewrite history on Joe Paterno and his role in the Jerry Sandusky mess.

“They probably shouldn’t have fired him, they probably should have suspended him,” Corbett said in an exclusive interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He probably should have been given the last three games, not on the sideline.”

The outgoing governor’s use of the pronoun “they” is truly a fascinating one. By all accounts, Corbett was central in the discussions that led to Paterno’s termination in 2011. In fact, it has been reported that Corbett, a Penn State trustee at the time, had the final word before the unanimous vote was taken to terminate Paterno on the fateful Wednesday night on November 8, 2011.

“Remember the children. Remember that little boy in the shower,” Corbett said while advocating for Paterno’s termination in 2011, according to this Don Van Natta profile. It was the first Board meeting Corbett participated in after missing the first four since taking office earlier that year.

While Corbett was willing to moralize then, he is apparently now — three years later — finally concerned with evidence.

“You know me, I have to have evidence on everything,” Corbett said to the Inquirer today. “If it was clear he understood and did not do anything, yeah. But I’m not so sure it was clear to him. And technically, he complied with the law.”

Back to 2011..

Through it all, the central character was Corbett. “Something not very good happened,” he told reporters on Nov. 9, hours before he urged his fellow trustees to fire Paterno. “We have to … take the bull by the horns and fix it. Quickly.” Publicly, Corbett made it clear that he thought he was the most qualified person to fix Penn State.

But, according to the Inquirer, Corbett said today that “he did not express an opinion because he had been privy to investigative and grand jury information in the case.”

With all due respect, Governor Corbett, what the fuck?

In an interview with WJAC-TV on February 8, 2012, Corbett publicly admitted to being part of the discussion to fire Paterno.

“The only thing I said is that they have to remember the children,” Corbett said. “People may have different memories, but I remember exactly what I said.”

His claim today is contrary to the multiple trustees Van Natta sourced in his report and Corbett’s public comments immediately before and after he swooped in back in 2011. There were no abstentions by the trustees when Paterno was fired — no objections, no request to stay out of the issue, no request for additional evidence or time by Corbett.

Van Natta also quotes former Penn State football player Bob Capretto, who is (or was) a friend of Corbett. Capretta asked Corbett in 2011, “Who told the board to fire Joe and fire Spanier?”

“And the governor said, ‘I told them to do it,'” Capretto says. “He was proud of it. I told him, ‘You don’t realize what you have created here. The damage to Penn State is enormous.'”

And, of course, there’s the now infamous story of Corbett yucking it up at the Ale House the night after Paterno was fired, celebrating over the carnage he helped create. From Van Natta:

One senior member of the Penn State faculty recalls seeing Corbett, surrounded by his security detail and friends, at the American Ale House & Grill in State College on Thursday evening, Nov. 10, the night before the regularly scheduled board meeting. “He was just effusive,” the faculty member says. “It was like a victory celebration. I remember thinking at the time that it just seemed a strange thing … a kind of gratuitous political piling on.” The faculty member, who was sitting near Corbett and overheard much of his conversation, added that the governor “left the impression that he was much more engaged, and really influential, in the board’s discussions up to that point.”

It appears, much like in his reelection campaign, Governor Corbett is relying on us to all just forget. The argument over whether Joe Paterno should have been fired is a different one entirely — there are reasonable people on both sides of that issue, and people are entitled to change their minds. No, this is about a disgraced governor who does one thing and says another — without the decency and leadership to either stand behind a decision or admit to having a change of heart and apologize.

Perhaps, Governor Corbett, after yesterday’s historic loss, it’s just time to go away.

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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