Holden & Danny: Ken Belson Startled That Penn State Buried Scandal For 10 Years
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Ken Belson of The New York Times joined Holden and Danny Thursday morning to discuss the report by investigator Louis Freeh into the actions of Penn State University surrounding former football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Top Penn State officials, including former head football coach Joe Paterno, concealed Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse allegations for more than a decade for fear of bad publicity, according to the 267-page report.
The report — which resulted from eight months of investigations and involved 430 witnesses and the examination of more than 3.5 millions emails and other documents — said, “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse.”
University officials, like President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley, had two opportunities to deal with Sandusky.
In 1998, police investigated a complaint that Sandusky had showered with a boy in the university’s football facility. The report notes that at least one official thought the incident, which lead to no criminal charges, could open “a Pandora’s box” and Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz took no immediate action to limit Sandusky’s access to the campus.
In 2001, former graduate assistant Mike McQueary told Paterno reports of sexual abuse in the showers by Sandusky on a boy of 10 to 12 years old. Paterno discussed the incident with Spanier, Curley and Schultz, but according to the report, it was decided to again not report the incident.
Sandusky is now in jail awaiting sentencing on 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys over 15 years.
On Holden & Danny, Holden asked Belson what stood out to him as he read the report that was issued early Thursday morning.
Belson said Paterno seemed to have “been in the loop” since 1998 and university’s officials tried to “keep it in-house” after the 1998 incident.
“There’s shades of gray in the sense that you could argue that they buried it for 10 years from 2001 to 2011, and this just adds three more years of burying the information. But it’s still fairly startling that it was all the way up the flagpole and they did not share this information,” Belson said.
Danny asked if the investigation led by Freeh is exhaustive investigation about what occurred from 1998 on.
Belson answered not at all, noting there are things that have yet to be said.
“One of the victim’s lawyers pointed out to me that this only starts in 1998; there were witnesses during the Sandusky trial who said they had contact with Sandusky even earlier than that … You could have all sorts of other people coming forward in other civil cases that we haven’t even heard from yet,” Belson said. “The Freeh Report very much mirrors — in a compact way — some of the evidence in the Sandusky case; it doesn’t go a lot further than that, so I think there’s a lot more than can come out.”
Danny asked what the next few months and years may look like for Penn State.
Belson said, in terms of football recruitment, players may second guess their decisions to attend Penn State, which will undoubtedly affect the school’s athletic department.
He also said if the state university’s public funding is cut as a penalty, there could be a downward affect on the school as a whole.
Holden said the university and even parts of the town rely on the football program, and asked Belson if it’s “too big to fail.”
“Football is the dominant social activity – certainly on Saturday’s in the fall – and there’s no way around it, you sort of live and die by it. Everybody loved it when they were going to bowl games and now they’re paying the price for being that addicted to it, if you will,” Belson said.