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‘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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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected] All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.


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