Penn State president Eric Barron has taken an aggressive approach to defending the university and late Nittany Lion football coach Joe Paterno against recent further allegations that have arisen from the Sandusky scandal.
Clearly responding to two recent reports that alleged Paterno was aware of Sandusky’s child sex abuse dating back to the 1970s, Barron ripped critics for jumping to conclusions without a full set of facts.
“I want you to know I am appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment that have accompanied the media stories surrounding these allegations,” Barron said in a statement. “All too often in our society, people are convicted in the court of public opinion, only to find a different outcome when all the facts are presented.”
An allegation from 1976 stems from a lawsuit between PSU and an insurance company, where one line in a court document contains the accusation that a child reported abuse to Paterno and the coach did not act on it. The initial report on the matter, by PennLive.com, contained the headline, “Child told Paterno of sex abuse in 1976, decades before official action.” The headlines was later changed to indicate the report to Paterno was alleged.
An allegation from 1971, contained in a CNN report, is from a man now in his 60s who claims to have reported abuse to someone he believed to be Paterno over the phone.
The Paterno family has vehemently denied all allegations.
In both instances, only one side — or a fraction of one side — of the stories have been told. Though he was fired from Penn State when the Sandusky scandal broke in November of 2011, Paterno was never charged with any crimes. He died in January of 2012 following a short bout with cancer.
Most details from the 1976 report have been sealed as part of the civil suit PSU settled with Sandusky’s victims and alleged victims. The details from the 1971 report are from a man who claims to have received a settlement from Penn State.
Sue Paterno, the wife of the late coach, has called “for the full record (of the settlements) to made public” by the Board of Trustees. At a meeting late last week, the Board did not respond directly to that request.
However, Barron, who was hired in 2014, did issue the following statement Sunday. It is printed in full below.
Over the past few days, allegations have surfaced from individuals who claim to be Sandusky victims and from unidentified individuals about the alleged knowledge of former University employees. None of these allegations about the supposed knowledge of University employees has been substantiated in a court of law or in any other process to test their veracity.
I want you to know I am appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment that have accompanied the media stories surrounding these allegations. All too often in our society, people are convicted in the court of public opinion, only to find a different outcome when all the facts are presented.
In contrast, over the last two days we have worked to be diligent in reanalyzing the record of reports and depositions to ensure that our reactions and comments are both responsible and trustworthy.
First, the allegations related to Penn State are simply not established fact. The two allegations related to knowledge by Coach Paterno are unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence other than a claim by an alleged victim. They date from the 1970s. Coach Paterno is not alive to refute them. His family has denied them.
Second, we cannot find any evidence, related to a settlement or otherwise, that an alleged early assault was communicated to Coach Paterno. This raises considerable credibility issues as to this press report. Others cite assistant coaches that were witnesses or had knowledge – stating it as fact in headlines and text – even in the face of a denial and clear failure to corroborate from the individuals allegedly involved. Other stories are clearly incredulous, and should be difficult for any reasonable person to believe. We should not be rendering judgments about the actions of Coach Paterno or any other former employees of Penn State based on incomplete, sensationalized media accounts.
I can think of few crimes as heinous as the sexual assault of a child. We are, as individuals and as an institution, appalled by Sandusky’s actions, and unified in our commitment to prevention, treatment and education. I encourage you to visit this link for information on Penn State’s commitment.
Unfortunately, we can’t control the 24/7 news cycle, and the tendency of some individuals in social media and the blogosphere to rush to judgment. But I have had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media. We have all had enough. And while Penn State cannot always comment on allegations that emanate from legal proceedings, I thought it was important to let you know my reaction to the media frenzy that has ensued over the past few days. I am appalled.