ESPN and NYT should be ashamed for tiptoeing around rape at heart of Penn State outrage

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I hate ESPN. It has completely blown the Penn State story. The New York Times also blew the story. It had four stories about the Penn State scandal on Wednesday and they all avoided the central fact (alleged by the grand jury): that an assistant coach, Mike McQueary, witnessed Jerry Sandusky anally raping a 10-year-old boy in 2002 inside the football fieldhouse and he told Joe Paterno about it and nothing happened, and the boy has never been identified. This is the central issue in the story: the eyewitness to a hideous violent crime does nothing in the moment about the violent crime and neither do those powerful people he tells about it. 

Paterno claims to have talked to higher-ups about the incident. But one of them referred to the crime as Sandusky “horsing around” with a youth in the showers. This is shocking, and it is why the media are fastened on this story. But they are most of them sidestepping the facts. This is a story about a corporate culture of corruption more shocking on its face than the Catholic church scandal; this is more American, for one thing, and were there ever eyewitnesses to violent crimes in the RC scandal who did nothing? I think I would have heard about it. 

ESPN has run one story after another lamenting Paterno’s fall and talking about what a great guy Paterno is, but I have heard almost no descriptions at all on the station of the central fact. Yes they say it’s a horrifying story, but they don’t tell viewers. This is shameful, repulsive journalism. It gives cover to the idiotic depraved Penn State students who rioted two nights ago. Journalists should inform the public. Even Brian Williams should be ashamed. Samantha Guthrie referred to the incident as one of “intercourse” on the Nightly News last night. She is also shading the truth. The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson was horrified by the grand jury report, but even she held back a little. No one should hold back here. For the sake of the unidentified victim, for the sake of the edifice of corruption in State College that got cover from an old man who the media decided was adorable but was not sentient, and who was in on the whole business.

The best journalism has been on Chris Matthews and on Erin Burnett last night, MSNBC and CNN. Matthews honestly described the rape, so did Buzz Bissinger, who gets to the heart of the case: a big strapping assistant coach does nothing when he witnesses a child being victimized in the showers before his eyes (at 9:30 p.m. on the night before Spring Break, when Sandusky would have thought that no one would come into the fieldhouse) but runs home to his own daddy. Why? Because of a culture of omerta around violence inside a hierarchical big business with an icon attached to it, Paterno. Burnett did journalism showing that child victims must tell 7 adults before they are believed, on average. Well this was a violent crime witnessed by an official, and then covered up for 9 years.

Where is the media to convey the true import of this story? They have been polite, and it is irresponsible. I have to believe they will get on it soon. State College, PA, should be carpetbombed with reporters and investigators and advocates for children. The disgraceful Pennsylvania governor ought to be shaming those Penn State students who are standing up for Paterno, violently. A terrifying culture of patriarchal violence has been enshrined in that place for many years, and the disappearance of the prosecutor several years ago who was on to these crimes should be prompting outside investigation now. Nobody should be spared.

ESPN should be ashamed of itself for treating this as the sad ouster of an icon when it is about thoroughgoing corruption. I hate State College. I wish the NCAA would cancel Saturday’s game, not allow them to attract any respectability, by staging another tight-pants-n-jockstrap circus on the ground where children were damaged for 20 years with the knowing complicity of respectable men. I will be pulling for Nebraska in any case. So will all thinking Americans.   

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