‘Totally, Outrageously Attacked’: Malcolm Gladwell Defends Joe Paterno, Penn State
In the week since the release of his newest book Talking To Strangers, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell has made his rounds on the media circuit promoting his work, sharing its findings, and discussing some of the more controversial points it contains.
A good portion of those conversations has focused on his chapter devoted to the Sandusky Scandal, which he talked about while on The Bill Simmons Podcast Wednesday.
“The leadership at Penn State was totally, outrageously attacked over this. I think they’re blameless,” Gladwell said. “Joe Paterno essentially did nothing wrong.”
Whereas in the book Gladwell paid little attention to Paterno but instead chose to focus on former university president Graham Spanier’s “brilliant career” at Penn State, he honed in on the late coach in his interview with Simmons.
Gladwell noted that Paterno had heard about the allegations from Mike McQueary and then reported it to his superiors. He also threw in the report that Paterno allegedly didn’t even know what sodomy was when talking about what McQueary said he had seen in the Lasch Building locker room.
Ultimately, Gladwell’s argument seemed to boil down to a question of culpability, or lack thereof — not a matter of who knew what or whether there was a cover-up.
“Why was 75-year-old football coach not behaving toward a prospective pedophile with the savvy and insight of a psychiatrist?” he said. “He’s been thinking football 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for 60 years. He is not going to be alert to the darkness inside the heart of one of his former coaches. You can’t ask him to do that.
“That’s why you have mental health professionals and psychologists. We do this during crises: We expect our leaders to be skilled at absolutely every job under the sun.”
You can listen to the interview below. Gladwell and Simmons briefly discuss the Sandusky Scandal from 50:29-52:01.
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