By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) There can be no more attempts to absolve Joe Paterno of blame, no more wishful and willful ignorance of facts, no more hiding from the truth.
Documents have been unsealed, and the sworn testimony is as stark as it is searing.
Joe Paterno ignored Jerry Sandusky’s victims who had come directly to him to tell their stories and ask for help. Joe Paterno turned a blind eye to reports of rape, abuse and molestation from other assistant coaches who were eyewitnesses to Sandusky molesting boys. Joe Paterno chose to let a monster use the Penn State football program as a farm for cultivating children on which to prey. Joe Paterno knew what was happening and didn’t care. Joe Paterno himself decided to let Sandusky keep attacking innocent children, rather than cause discomfort in his kingdom.
All this we know from newly revealed public testimony in a case that pits the school against its insurer to determine who should pay the $93 million (and climbing) in settlements to boys raped and abused by Sandusky.
“The records include excerpts from depositions given by accusers who contend they reported abuse to Paterno or members of his staff in the 1970’s and ’80s,” according to The Washington Post.
One man, identified as John Doe 150, testified in 2014 that while attending a Penn State football camp as a 14-year-old in 1976, Sandusky assaulted him in the shower, penetrating his rectum with his finger.
“The victim asked to speak with Paterno about it,” the Post report said. “Doe testified that he specifically told Paterno that Sandusky had sexually assaulted him, and Paterno ignored it.”
The victim’s sworn recollection of the exchange with Paterno will sicken you, and it will define the coach’s legacy.
“Is it accurate that Coach Paterno quickly said to you ‘I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff, I have a football season to worry about?” the man’s lawyer asked him in 2014.
“Specifically. Yes … I was shocked, disappointed, offended. I was insulted. I said, is that all you’re going to do? You’re not going to do anything else?”
He then testified that Paterno simply walked away from him.
Here was the man behind the Great Experiment, the idea that a powerful football program could be underpinned by upstanding morality, citizenship and scholarship. It was a grand and glorious vision for which Paterno was venerated until he died in 2012. And all along the way, as this ambition was being fulfilled, Paterno was consciously allowing a child-rapist to roam the facilities, using the football program to insulate and facilitate his serial crimes over decades.
The pathetic attempts by the Paterno family to rewrite history have to stop now, as does its disgusting, ongoing campaign to discredit abuse victims at every turn. This is the point at which the Paterno family must stand down and be silent, sad and ashamed.
Those 200 players, just a week removed from petitioning for the restoration of Paterno’s statue, can be asked again why they hold that desire in their hearts. Outside central Pennsylvania, the rest of the world will keep wondering about the deep mental illness still apparently infecting so many alumni, fans and trustees. We remain amazed by its twisted thrall, its depth and breadth.
Penn State officials pay lip-service to healing but refuse to stand strongly for victims by quelling the smoldering Paterno revisionists. All this new testimony should embolden anyone in power there with even an iota of human decency left to speak out and try to move a haunted, diseased institution from darkness into light.
Reconcile the truth that Joe Paterno helped children be raped. Confront it, accept it, absorb it. Do whatever must then be done to move on with whatever is left of a self-image that couldn’t allow this understanding, for either a conflicted university or any sorry individual soul.
It’s time. It is far past time.