Joe Paterno’s back in the news due to new allegations surrounding the knowledge he may have had in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Did Paterno know of the allegations dating back to the 1970s? Did six assistant coaches witness child sex abuse and nothing came of it? There are lots of rumors floating out there, so it was a good thing Jay Paterno, Joe’s son, joined The Josh Innes Show on WIP Monday afternoon. Or was it?
Paterno is hell bent on saving the name of his father, who may or may not have helped cover up child sex abuse at Penn State during his tenure. There’s no denying child sex abuse took place, but now it’s a war of who knew and who didn’t.
It’s a sad testament to the victims that the first thing pro-Paterno people will think is they’re either making up allegations or Paterno did what he was supposed to do, legally. His status as an icon in Happy Valley apparently has limits. Who would’ve thought that?
I’ve transcribed the entire interview below, and there is audio if you’d like to listen to the interview at the bottom of this post. I’ll break down the transcript into sections.
Josh Innes: What do you know about these allegations – the ’76 and the ’71 allegations – what do you know right now?
Jay Paterno: As they pertain to Joe Paterno? I know there is actually no fact to support the claims that have been reported. And that’s not just me saying that. That’s also Penn State University, who has had access to to all the depositions and all the information regarding the cases. And they came out pretty forcefully with a statement stating that last night. That’s what I know.
And I know that Joe Paterno told me in 2011 that the first time he was ever made aware of anything relating to Jerry Sandusky was in 2001 when he received a report and reported it. And that’s what I know. Those are the facts of the case that have been established by the prosecutors and the evidence.
Innes: Now, you say in ’76 and ’71 there’s no evidence of anything in this and the school has nothing. Were these some of the kids that were paid off?
Jay P: You’d have to ask the university that, so I can’t tell you definitively. As far as I know, judging based on some media reports, they were. However, I think what’s important to know about these legal settlements is that the university’s legal subcommittee led by trustee, Ira Lubert, they believed it was faster and cheaper just to write checks without any kind of strenuous vetting of the claims. They did not make any of these people making claims go under oath. And now, in that haste to put things behind them, and that combined with the NCAA’s recklessness that created collateral damage for Penn Staters, the football program and Joe Paterno.
Joe Paterno was incapable of lying
Innes: Now, do you find it completely out of the realm of possibility that your dad was told by any victim in ’76 or ’71 about anything? Is it out of the realm of possibility?
Jay P: Absolutely, based on what I know about Joe Paterno. A man who had a decades-long reputation for honesty and integrity, to throw that out the window and to think he would act in a different way is absolutely – it’s not even credible when you think about it. In ’71 and ’76, I was a young kid. And after those dates, if you want to sit there and say he must’ve known, he allowed me to be around Jerry Sandusky. I was around his family, his kids. I was in the pool with them on trips. You would then have to believe Joe would put that out of his mind when he promoted him in 1977 to defensive coordinator. You would then have to believe Joe Paterno put that out of his mind in 1978 when he watched Jerry Sandusky create a statewide charity to benefit young people and be around young people.
The thing we have to do in this society we have to be careful about is you have to judge the way people live their lives when you try and ascribe motivations or actions without evidence. And everything in Joe Paterno’s life points the exactly the other way in this. So, yeah, it’s not credible.
On Joe Paterno not doing enough
Innes: Let’s go to all the actions and the motives, then, right, because you say that there’s nothing that would ever say that Joe Paterno would ever cover anything up. With the 2001 thing with McQueary, I believe that Joe Paterno even said he didn’t do enough. He felt like he didn’t do enough in that. Is that information enough to say, ‘Alright, in 2001 he didn’t do enough, what’s to say he would’ve done enough in ’71 or ’76?’
Jay P: Let me clarify, he did not say he didn’t do enough. The full statement – and, again, this is part of the problem we have as a society, we cut things down because we gotta make it fit 140 characters on Twitter, and, hey, I’m guilty of it, too, I’m on Twitter – the point is, Joe said with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more. Which, basically he was saying, I did not – not basically what he was saying, I know what was said in that room when he made that statement – he said, look, I wish I had know Jerry was doing these things so I could have acted differently. What he’s saying is, ‘I did not know.’ So, that statement’s been used against him over and over again. In 2001, he consulted university policy, which was based on state law, and reported it to the fullest that he was allowed as an employee at the university. Keep in mind Jerry at that time was no longer an employee. So he reported it with the expectation that it would be investigated and handled and that’s all he was allowed to do by law.
The Mike McQueary angle
Innes: What did Mike McQueary tell your dad?
Jay P: You’d have to ask Mike McQueary that. Now, what has been reported, by Mike himself under oath – I’ve never had a conversation with him like, ‘Mike, what did you say?’ – what Mike testified to under oath was that he was very vague about what he said intentionally because he did not feel comfortable talking about that subject with Joe. And, believe me, that is one of those subjects, anything to do with sex-related, you just didn’t talk with Joe about it.
Innes: Why? That just seems absurd to me. If a guy witnessed what he thought was a rape I just find it absurd that a grown man in his 70s can’t be talked to about sex.
Jay P: Uh, if you knew Joe really well, you’d understand. It’s one of those things that, if people kissed on a movie, he would say, ‘What are you guys watching? That’s disgusting. That’s raunchy.’ That’s just the way he was. He was old school. But, that being said-
Innes: Well, this is not Casablanca. This is rape and child rape. You gotta kind of say this to him.
Jay P: Let’s back up. Mike never used the word ‘rape’ in his testimony or under oath and said he did not. He stated he had never used that word with Joe Paterno. And, again, that’s another one of those things – when the grand jury presentment came out, they used those words – and, unfortunately, they were not accurate. So, that was not an accurate report by the grand jury. And, in fact, one of the things Jerry Sandusky was acquitted of and not convicted of was that charge. So Mike never said that to Joe Paterno. Again, that’s one of those things that has taken on the aura of truth despite all facts to the contrary.
JoePa did enough because the media loves clickbait and victims are money hungry
Innes: But let’s say he didn’t say ‘rape’ but let’s say he said there was slapping noises in a shower, and I guess this is a 60-70 year old man at this point, we’re talking about Sandusky, right, there’s something weird about that, is there not? That you would even hear that part?
Jay P: No question. That’s why Joe reported it. That’s the thing you got to remember: Joe reported the only incident that was ever brought to him, and I can’t say it enough. And when you look at it, just to give everybody who’s listening a perspective, Joe was investigated. The prosecutors investigated this and Frank Fina said on television, in front of the entire country that there was no evidence that Joe Paterno covered it up. The prosecutors in this case, all along, said Joe was forthcoming, he followed the law, he was cooperative, he was honest. That’s when the prosecutors, with all the evidence at their fingers, with subpoena power, with investigative power, all those things, and that closes the book on this. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand. Now, when people want to come forward and make claims 40 years later, keep in mind, there’s a monetary element of them-
Innes: Very true.
Jay P: -making that claim. You know, 40 years later, you would come out and you gotta be careful you don’t throw away all the things the prosecutors have done. Now, I understand it. I get it. Clickbait media is ready-made. The headlines are salacious morsels that we can digest. We all do it, it’s like comfort food. Whether it’s Prince dying or Robin Williams dying, you know, we all read the headline and you go, ‘OK, that’s the truth.’ Look, we all do it. You know, I saw you retweet a CNN article and made a comment about Joe going to a new level of hell. I mean, I’ve said stupid things about things I’ve read in headlines. We’ve all done it. But, you know what, we have an obligation, if you’re gonna get into these things, to read the details of the story.
Paterno may have been a legend, but he didn’t know everything
Innes: I agree with you on that part. And I agree with you on the clickbait media part of it. And, again, the level of hell thing – we were talking about things like that on the air the other day, like if you know about rape, what level of hell are you in? Here’s where I have an issue: Joe Paterno is godlike in that area. And you even kind of acknowledge it when you say people won’t talk about sex in front of JoePa. He is this saintlike figure and he’s got his fingers on everything in that town and that university. How does he not know anything, if his right-hand man, his defensive coordinator is doing this for 40 years, how does he know nothing?
Jay P: Again, a couple things there. Number one, it has not been established that he had been doing this for 40 years in a court of law. That is absolutely not fact.
Innes: Well, what if it was 20? 10? 15?
Jay P: Let’s just say this, OK? Joe Paterno did not know everything that was going on in town. I can tell you that personally because I grew up here and there are things I did that he didn’t know about. That’s just the reality of the situation. I’m his own kid. But, that being said-
Innes: But you also weren’t sodomizing kids in the shower in his locker room.
Jay P: Obviously not. The point being is that he wasn’t aware of everything that was going on. The other thing that you have to understand, when you talk to experts in the field – Jim Clemente was an FBI profiler for years and was a child sex abuse survivor himself – stated to me, ‘Look Jay’ – because, look, I worked with Jer. I worked for him for several years and I sat around and said, ‘How the hell did I miss it?’ And Jim Clemente said, ‘Jay, you gotta understand. Jerry Sandusky is one of the best I have ever seen at concealing his activities from those closest to him, number one. Number two, these people make it their business to conceal their activities.’ Now, when all we knew about this guy was that he was a church-going, married, non-drinker who had started a charity for children all over the state. So everything we knew about him ran completely counter to this. So, yeah, it’s entirely possible – in fact it’s not only possible, it’s true – that we did not know about it. I worked with him. I grew up in this town. I was friends with members of his family. So, yeah, it’s not only possible. It happened.
Nobody suspected anything because Sandusky was allowed to adopt children
Innes: I don’t know your dad and I don’t know people at Penn State. But you can see where, from afar, if you hear about a godlike figure like this, I find it hard to believe that if there were things that happened in the locker room – which it sounds like things have happened in the locker room before with kids – that nobody found this weird. I’d argue that it makes Sandusky even more of a target to a degree if he is the church-goer, the guy that never drinks anything and is around all these kids. Something about that is off.
Jay P: Well, let me explain to you why we didn’t think it was off. Because the state of Pennsylvania allowed him to adopt six children. OK, these are experts in the field. These are judges. These are child welfare experts. Not to mention a great number of other children were placed in his home as foster kids. So, everything we knew, even in the situation with Matt Sandusky, Matt Sandusky was adopted by Jerry and all we knew was Matt was going to court to fight to be adopted by Jerry.
Now, if one of your co-workers had that same situation going on, would you immediately suspect something? No, you’d say, ‘Oh, the kid wants to live with him.’ You would never suspect that. And the experts who were trained in the field never, ever saw it, either. So, to say that Joe Paterno should have caught this when Joe had no background and no training whatsoever in these types of issues, as it relates to that, to expect him to see something that people who are experts, who are around Jerry with children all the time, is unfair to Joe. number one. Number two, let me clarify one other thing. Jerry retired in 1999. He was not around our program with children after that. I never saw him one time at a practice, and I was at every practice from 1999 on. I did not see him at practice with kids. He wasn’t on the sidelines at games. He wasn’t on the sidelines with kids after that. So, he wasn’t even around. We didn’t see him. I would see him maybe once a week at six o’clock in the morning working out by himself in the weight room.
Why it’s not weird Sandusky retired a year after allegations surfaced
Innes: Let’s go to ’99 then. Because you brought up ’99 when he retired. 1998 – what was the main issue in 1998 as it pertains to the Freeh Report? What was the information in the Freeh Report from 1998?
Jay P: The information in the Freeh Report was that there was an allegation made and that the Penn State police investigated it. They presented a report to the county district attorney outside of school. The county district attorney investigated it and there were no charges brought because they didn’t think it had any merit.
Innes: I do find it odd, though, that you have Sandusky quitting the next year, the team’s winning football games, it’s a little fishy. Right? I mean, a year after that allegation comes out, he retires the next year?
Jay P: You gotta understand, at that time, there was a state pension going on. And Joe had told Jerry a year or two earlier, ‘You’re not going to be the next head coach.’ So, Jerry wanted to focus more time on The Second Mile, and he opted to retire. And, believe me, that story has been investigated and investigated and investigated, and it has been absolutely, without question, the facts have been established, that his retirement had nothing to do with that. And all the documents have been turned over. All of my dad’s handwritten notes about that, and, in fact, my dad had very little to do in negotiating his retirement. That was handled by Rod Erickson at Old Main, who then became the president of the university when this whole thing broke. So, Rod Erickson is the guy you gotta ask if you want more detail on that. But, as far as Joe goes, there is no correlation and no connection whatsoever.
Don’t blame Penn State
Innes: Then where does the blame lie for this? Even if it’s not 40 years? Let’s say it’s 30 or 20 or 10, where does the blame lie from an internal standpoint from Penn State?
Jay P: From an internal standpoint? I don’t think you can put any blame on Penn State because of the fact that, here’s the thing, these are the actions of one person, OK? And, unfortunately, the way we are as a society, we’ve always got to find something else to blame rather than to say, look, this person committed a crime, they’re guilty of it. There’s really nobody else. Now, should people maybe have been better trained? Should people have been more aware of these issues? These types of issues happen in organizations and in towns in every part of America. That’s one of the good things to come out of this. One of the good things that has come out of this is that there is far more awareness of this issue. My mom donated a quarter of a million dollars of her own money to set up training at state universities around the state in the state system. So, we’ve done things, everybody’s done things to create more awareness of this. So, that’s a very important thing.
I’ve been involved in another charity called Darkness to Light. They’ve done things, they’ve trained five to seven percent of the adults in Centre County on these issues and they’re trying to get to 10 or 15 [percent] because that creates critical mass. So, I think the blame really lies in the fact that this is a crime that nobody is comfortable talking about, and that’s not me, that’s everybody.
Innes: I understand that and I’m glad that you guys are doing charity things, but it just sounds like it’s just kind of glossing over everything, to say, ‘Hey, well at Penn State, they didn’t really know anything and nobody really knew and we’re doing charity work and that’s great’ and I’m not saying that your dad’s guilty. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around it.
On not being trained to see or handle child sex abuse
Jay P: Well, let me explain one other thing to you. How old are students that go to Penn State? They’re 18 to 23 to 24, so we are not trained in these types of things. And I’m not saying – that’s not an excuse, that’s just the reality of it – we weren’t trained to deal with child sex abuse. We didn’t have any minors on our team. So, it wasn’t something we talked about on a regular basis. Now, that said, we’re more aware of it now.
Innes: But, if you were to see it, though, if you were Mike McQueary and you saw or heard that, what are you doing in that situation? If you’re Jay Paterno, you walk into that locker room, you hear what he heard or saw what he saw, what do you do there?
Jay P: First of all, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals and be critical of Mike or not critical of Mike because I don’t know exactly what he saw, I’ve never talked to him about it. That said, we all like to think we’d handle it a certain way. Now, most likely, who knows what you would do? Because sometimes, you may react in shock, like, ‘Did I just see what I think I saw?’ or you may, you know, there’s some people that would run in and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ so I think everybody reacts differently to those things because you’re not sure exactly what you just saw and it’s tough to process.
Innes: But he thought he saw something that was pretty bad. Bad enough to go talk to your dad about it.
Jay P: Again, you got to talk to him about that without me trying to ascribe motives.
Why hasn’t he talked to McQueary?
Innes: I’m surprised you haven’t talked to him, I don’t know why you haven’t talked to him.
Jay P: Well, the reason I haven’t talked to him is because when this story broke there was some legal advice given by the university that this is something we should not be talking about and I always felt like if Mike wanted to talk about it, he would talk about it. I didn’t want to be-
Innes: It’s a pretty big deal, it’s your dad and it’s his legacy…
Jay P: I understand that completely, but, again, you know, we were given legal advice by the university that this is not something we were supposed to talk about amongst ourselves. And, at the time, that’s what I followed and that’s what we all followed. Now, I have not really seen Mike since then. So, I really haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk to him about it.
Innes: Where is he now?
Jay P: I believe he’s still in State College. Like I said, I have not seen him and I have not really been in contact with him. Again, there are still lawsuits ongoing and that’s part of the reason.
Does he ever doubt the character of his father?
Innes: With all of these stories coming out, has there ever been a moment where doubt has crept into your mind and you say, ‘You know, when I read this, maybe he did know something?’ Has that ever crept into your mind?
Jay P: No, because I read the Freeh Report. When you look at the Freeh Report, there’s really no evidence there. And people that have reviewed it, not just people that we are involved with, but I know people that are lawyers and judges and things like that, who have said to me, ‘Look, I read the whole thing. There’s no evidence in there linked to your dad and you shouldn’t worry about it.’
Innes: But who’s to say that the evidence you that you guys got in the follow-up report is any more credible?
Jay P: Like I said, I’m not talking about my report. I’m talking about people that read the Freeh Report who are legal experts, who are judges, not people that we hired to do anything. So, I’m not saying those people. If you want to discount that, you can discount that. But, the truth of the matter is the Freeh Report had no subpoena power, they did not interview any of the key people involved except for Graham Spanier, and when you look at what the prosecutors in the case did, they had subpoena power, they had everybody under oath, and again, remember, Freeh did not have anybody under oath. In fact, just so you know, Freeh did not even make transcripts of the interviews. So, all they did was record their general reflections on what they thought you’ve said. We were not allowed to see that. We were not given copies of their notes. So, the Freeh Report is far from a legal document. It is just a general document that they put out really to kind of, you know, to give them some cover on some things.
Innes: If it were my dad, I’d even have some sort of doubt just creep in at least when you see so much. Outside of the evidence stuff, just the common sense part of it, which is, you’re in that locker room, you’ve been around – you were in the locker room from the time you were a kid until the time that all of this stuff came to an end. Do you ever think that, you know, it is possible that if you’re around somebody for this long and this is going on, you have to have some sort of inkling?
Jay P: No, look, Joe Paterno, and I gotta run here, but, to let you know, I never had a doubt. My entire life with Joe Paterno, his professional life, there were stories that came up that he said, ‘Hey look, let’s be open about this.’ That’s not his nature. He was an honest man of integrity and I would hope that people in society would understand that and would be willing to give a person who lived his entire life that way the benefit of the doubt with unsubstantiated, non-sourced allegations come forward.
Innes: Why don’t you call him ‘Dad?’ I’m wondering.
Jay P: Because I worked with him for 17 years and it was a professional thing, so… hey, I got another call coming. I gotta run and I appreciate your time.
Innes: Alright, see ya later.
Jay P: Thanks.
I love that last part. Just because. You can listen to the entire 20-minute interview below, courtesy of 94WIP.