A Look Back At The Release Of The Freeh Report
Assembled by a group of Penn State trustees, a report published by WJAC Monday night refuted the findings and methodologies of the Freeh Report, which was released in 2012. Part of the trustees’ report included how the strategic release of the Freeh Report could’ve helped manipulate journalists’ coverage and the public’s awareness.
The report claims Freeh, with the help of New York public relations firm Kekst, strategically released the report in a way designed “to produce the greatest media impact and to reduce the ability of reporters to fully vet the 267-page report.” The result was what was was described as “more of a media circus than a sober, professional communication of findings from an investigation.”
The report came out on July 12, the day after the MLB All-Star Game and one of the least busy days of the year in sports, with no games played in any of the Big Four leagues.
Even though July 12 was a slow news day, which ensured journalists would be able to zero in on initial coverage of the Freeh Report, the trustees allege the approaching Olympics as a second timely factor. Plenty of sports journalists would be traveling and unable to take a deep dive into the report. Additionally, by scheduling the press conference in Philadelphia as opposed to on campus, more reporters could attend, upping its coverage even more.
The public relations tactics behind carefully timing the release and placing the presser, along with the use of a “phony website crash,” contributed to the alleged flaws. Here’s a look back at the day the Freeh Report dropped, based on findings from the trustees’ report.
2:35 a.m. — Deadspin leaks press conference documents.
Hours before the long-awaited release of the Freeh Report, Timothy Burke of Deadspin published an article titled, “The Freeh Report Will Conclude Paterno’s Firing Was Warranted, According To These Preparation Documents.” The article included leaked documents believed to be part of Freeh and Kekst’s preparations for the next day’s press conference.
In the notes are answers stating Spanier and Paterno were justifiably fired and that Paterno did not do all that he could have done. Also included were apparent preparations for the website TheFreehReportonPSU.com to crash at 9:05 a.m., just minutes after going live.
Two questions in Freeh’s notes indicated that the Board of Trustees had shown interest in the Freeh Reports’ recommendations and that the university had already adopted preliminary recommendations.
9:05 a.m. — On schedule, the website crashes.
Because of the crash, reporters were unable to read the entirety of the report. Instead, they were forced to base their first stories on what the trustees’ report describes as Freeh’s “written statement, which was filled with inflammatory versions of the report’s findings.” The statement was issued at 8:57 a.m., according to Onward State’s live blog from the day.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh said in the release. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
You can read the full statement here.
9:07 a.m. — Penn State issues its release.
Shortly after Freeh’s statement, Penn State published its own release, promising to review the report and assess possible changes to make in the future. Administrators scheduled a press conference of their own for that afternoon, in conjunction with the Board of Trustees meetings in Scranton.
Below is the full release:
Today with the report released by Judge Louis Freeh, the Penn State Board of Trustees delivered on the commitment we made last November when we engaged Judge Freeh to conduct an independent investigation into the University’s actions regarding former Penn State employee, Jerry Sandusky, and the handling of allegations of the child abuse crimes of which he has since been found guilty.
Judge Freeh and his team conducted a rigorous eight-month investigation into all aspects of the University’s actions to determine where breakdowns occurred and what changes should be made for the future. We, like many others, have eagerly anticipated Judge Freeh’s Report of the findings of his investigation.
His 267-page report has just been released at http://www.TheFreehReportonPSU.com/ and we are currently reviewing his findings and recommendations. We expect a comprehensive analysis of our policies, procedures and controls related to identifying and reporting crimes and misconduct, including failures or gaps that may have allowed alleged misconduct to go undetected or unreported. We will provide our initial response later today.
We want to ensure we are giving the report careful scrutiny and consideration before making any announcements or recommendations. We are convening an internal team comprising the Board of Trustees, University administration and our legal counsel to begin analyzing the report and digesting Judge Freeh’s findings.
As we anticipate the review and approval process will take some time, our initial response and immediate next steps will be presented at 3:30 p.m. at the Dayton/Taylor Conference Room at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center.
These top-line reactions will provide an overview of our process for developing and implementing a plan once we have studied the report and have a better understanding of what it means and how we can implement findings to strengthen Penn State’s role as a leading academic institution and ensure that what occurred will never be allowed to happen again.
10 a.m. — Freeh addresses the media.
An hour after the report was released, Freeh took the podium at a press conference about his findings “before it was possible for [the journalists] to fully review the Report,” which was 267 pages.
As his leaked notes implied, Freeh referenced Paterno and Schulz’s culpability.
Here is his full press conference:
3:30 p.m. — Penn State hosts its own press conference.
The trustees’ report questions whether university leaders were complicit in the planning of the July 12 release, specifically because both parties said at the time no one outside the Freeh Group had access to the report before its release.
“Did Penn State leaders get advance copies of the Report, as was reflected in the planning notes of the Freeh Group?” the report reads. “Or, instead, did they receive the Report at the same time as the public — and then make statements accepting the Freeh Report conclusions before they could have had sufficient time to review and consider the Report. Either possibility has troubling implications.”
President Rodney Erickson, Board of Trustees Chairwoman Karen Peetz, and Task Force chair Ken Frazier spoke at Penn State’s press conference and more or less echoed the apologetic tone from the morning’s release.
“With today’s report we can continue the process of addressing the most painful chapter in the University’s history,” Erickson said. “We must work together as we begin picking up the pieces and rebuilding our community to ensure it is safer, stronger and more student-focused than ever.”
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees, Peetz took “full responsibility for the failures that occurred.”
“We thank Judge Freeh for his diligence in uncovering the facts over the past eight months and issuing such a comprehensive and thorough report,” Frazier said. “The process we underwent with Judge Freeh was critical for all of us to move forward.”
The full report compiled by the trustees can be viewed below:
Report to the Board of Trus… by on Scribd
For more information on the Freeh Report, see Onward State’s live blog and other coverage from the day it was released:
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