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

on 29 Comments

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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29 Responses

  1. HRK
    November 11, 2011, 10:29 am

    Thanks, Phil, for this article. I’m not very in to football, but I admit I felt a little uncomfortable over the firing of the iconic Paterno (probably more because he was 84 than because he was an icon, truth be told). His only possible excuse would be if he didn’t somehow get all the information and the assistant coach conveyed it to him as less than what it was–which was rape. But that seems unlikely.

    You really put the facts out in the right manner. Someone witnessed a rape, did nothing at the time, and then nothing happened later. Shameful.

  2. Dan Crowther
    November 11, 2011, 11:59 am

    Fuckin’ A. Phil. Sometimes rage is the only rational response.

    How a grown man can “walk in” on another grown man sodomizing a child and not procede to beat that man half to death is well beyond my comprehension.

    And, how another grown man and a father can obfuscate what he was told (in this case, that a child was being raped) into “possible sexual misconduct” or whatever he told the grand jury is also beyond my comprehension.

    This is about what authoritarian institutions do to PEOPLE. They make people not run to the police, like this assistant coach – they make people, like Paterno only think of saving the institution and with it their own neck – and they make a bunch of moronic kids rally for a guy who covered up the rape of a ten year old boy.

    To discuss this case in a vaccuum, without taking into account the institutional, authoritarian aspect I think also misses the point. Football coaches, college presidents and CEO’s are a few examples of the “mini-kings” we allow in our society. The real problem lies beyond “who told who and when?” The problem is us.

  3. Mooser
    November 11, 2011, 12:14 pm

    “Sometimes rage is the only rational response.”

    Absolutely! Righteous rage is the only possible response!

    • Dan Crowther
      November 11, 2011, 12:49 pm

      Those kids are one day going to be extremely ashamed of themselves…..hopefully

      • noland
        November 11, 2011, 2:27 pm

        do those kids not understand what Paterno did ( or did not do)? this was very depressing!! you hope they do not represent the majority.

  4. moco
    November 11, 2011, 1:20 pm

    “eyewitness to a hideous violent crime does nothing in the moment about the violent crime”
    Anderson Cooper used the correct words “anal rape”, described how the boy was standing with his hands against a wall while he was being raped. Was McQueary thinking “the damage is done, I need to get home”, was he initially numb, completely desensitized?
    Children are harmed (legally and criminally) more often than we can know, children with special needs more often than most. They are harmed in their homes, schools, houses of worship, camps, medical settings, foster care, etc. The harm can be considered criminal as in this case; or legal as in corporal punishment and genital mutilation. Too often we know of children being harmed and don’t intervene because the false boundaries of legal/criminal are hindering our commonsense boundaries of safe/harmful. I recently had to contact Alternet over an ad on their website, an American Apparel child porn ad. It took too many emails, facebook comments, and calls to their advertising department to get some change.
    I once worked in a group home for children with severe multiple special needs where conditions were not safe. I repeatedly reported unsafe conditions to my supervisors and managers, nothing changed. I called child protective services directly which initiated an investigation, they informed me the group home was one of the most investigated in the state. Unfortunately, some of the conditions I had reported were not sufficiently corrected long term, resulting in the deaths of several residents. I cannot comprehend how children can continue to be most harmed in a country that calls itself the greatest.
    We must each be diligent wherever and whenever we are not sure if someone is being harmed, especially our most fragile. Most of us cannot comprehend how someone can see a child being criminally harmed and not stop it; however we must each do our part to not wait till we see it. We must each be proactive, find out what the laws are in your community, in some communities mandated reporters are not allowed to report directly to protective services, they must follow chain of command. In New York, some providers of services for children are not required to do background checks on prospective employees and volunteers, I know of Catholic and Hasidic providers opposing legislation that would require them to do back ground checks.

  5. Madrid
    November 11, 2011, 2:17 pm

    Given the charges, one can, I suppose, empathize with your zealous scorn for Penn State. However, there are so many errors in this screed, that it’s not much worth responding to, much less reading.

    Just to point one basic error that any journalist should have gotten: McQueary was not an assistant coach when he witnessed the assault on the ten-year old. I’ll leave it up to you to find out what his position was, Phil. Maybe your journalistic skills are getting rusty, and you need some practice!

    • moco
      November 11, 2011, 2:52 pm

      “McQueary was not an assistant coach when he witnessed the assault on the ten-year old.”
      Makes no difference to the child what he wasn’t, he wasn’t more than a mouse who glanced and went on into his hole. Good knowing if you’re ever being horrendously harmed we can keep on keeping on, when we feel comfortable we’ll mention it to someone, meanwhile you and others continue to get harmed.

      • Madrid
        November 11, 2011, 3:12 pm

        I’m not excusing him, and I’m not excusing anyone– any person whatever they are should call the POLICE if they witness a crime is my opinion. I’m just pointing out what a sloppy piece of writing this is– that is. That one error is hardly the only one in this piece by the way.

      • annie
        November 11, 2011, 3:32 pm

        madrid..did you know with one click anyone can read your archives? it’s rather interesting checking out how many of your comments are made directly to phil. specifically critiquing him.

        perhaps you should try setting your sites on another target. just sayin’

      • Madrid
        November 11, 2011, 3:43 pm

        Whatever– I like Phil and his site, but I don’t like bigotry, even when it is directed at popular targets among liberals like Catholics and mid-Westerners.

    • annie
      November 11, 2011, 3:05 pm

      McQueary was not an assistant coach when he witnessed the assault

      i don’t care if he was the janitor or a passer by. the only person who gets a pass for not reporting something like this is another minor who is scared or not mature enough to understand the implications.

      if a murder were to take place and someone did nothing would you use an excuse like ‘he wasn’t an assistant yet’?

      raping a minor is a serious crime. it should not be up to a supervisor of some job to make this call and should have been reported to the police. immediately.

    • lysias
      November 11, 2011, 5:45 pm

      You’re right. McQueary wasn’t an assistant coach at the time of the 2002 incident. He only became that later.

      Was the promotion his reward for not reporting the matter to the cops?

    • Chu
      November 11, 2011, 6:42 pm

      It was kind of a screed. Before Phil posts, he should cool off, take a walk and come back to the table and reread.

  6. Madrid
    November 11, 2011, 2:22 pm

    Also, what a ridiculous statement, “I hate State College.” WTF: so all of State College is to blame for an child-abuse scandal that involves at most a handful of people connected to the athletic program? Now I guess that I understand your blanket hatred for the Catholic Church, Phil– it’s based on blanket bigotry…

    • Donald
      November 11, 2011, 3:03 pm

      “WTF: so all of State College is to blame for an child-abuse scandal that involves at most a handful of people connected to the athletic program?”

      I think he’s also thinking of the students rioting in favor of Paterno. It’s probably something you’d see at any big school with a strong football program and a reverence for some legendary coach. I’m free of this particular form of religiosity, but those suffering from it turn into fanatics when one of their heroes is revealed to have feet of clay. They act like some of our Zionists here react when some Israeli crime is criticized.

      As for McQueary, I happened to remember he wasn’t an assistant coach at the time but forget what lowly position he held. It doesn’t get him off the hook. The most charitable interpretation of his behavior is one offered above, that maybe he was too stunned or shocked or went into denial when he saw what was happening and literally couldn’t believe his eyes. I sometimes wonder how I’d react if faced with some life or death situation (which this almost was)–some people just freeze. But he seems not to have followed up on what he saw after he reported it. That’s a sort of buck-passing that probably comes easy to many people.

      I have mixed feelings about the Catholic Church. Blanket hatred is wrong if Phil expressed it, but even if I were Catholic (maybe especially if I were Catholic) I would have felt a mixture of cold fury and disgust over the way it turns out the Church has handled its own child rapists.

    • Bumblebye
      November 11, 2011, 3:11 pm

      You can’t defend them, so you have to nitpick and chuck muck at Phil, eh?

  7. noland
    November 11, 2011, 2:30 pm

    This morning on ESPN 1st take they discussed that central issue..but still they did not much to say about Paterno!!!most of the talk was about McQueary and people above Paterno.

  8. annie
    November 11, 2011, 2:59 pm

    this is the first i have heard , or grasp (possibly i did hear) the students have rioted in favor of Paterno, which seems insane.

    and this McQueary person too. how you can have this information and not go to the police? don’t people know that sexual predators do not stop? especially pedophiles. they frequently seek out professions that expose themselves to children. to go on year after year knowing a sexual predator is exposed to children is outrageous. what possible level of brainwashing or old boys club must these people be indoctrinated into to live with this. everyone who knew this information should be fired and prevented from working in the state system of education again. they are responsible for protecting students and they failed.

    i agree this school should be forced to close it’s department for at least a few years. let the students who want to practice football go to another college. the organization who runs these games should not allow this college to enter any competition at all for years. and then start completely fresh in a few years. placement could be made for all the students to go to another school.

    Sandusky investigation begins in San Antonio
    By Anna Orso
    Collegian Staff Writer

    Jerry Sandusky is now being investigated by the San Antonio Police Department based on the possibility an offense may have occurred during the Alamo Bowl in 1999, according to a statement from Sgt. Chris Benavides of the San Antonio Police Department.

    Following Sandusky’s recent indictment on charges of sexually abusing at least eight young boys over the span of more than a decade, the police department in Texas will investigate the possibility Sandusky sexually abused one of his victims while under their jurisdiction.

    The investigation is in regards to one of the boys allegedly abused by Sandusky — named “Victim 4” in the grand jury presentment — who told the grand jury he traveled to and from bowl games with the football teams and frequently had overnight stays with them.

    According to the presentment, Sandusky threatened to send “Victim 4” home from the Alamo Bowl in 1999 because he “resisted [Sandusky’s] advances.”

    Check back at for more updates.

  9. annie
    November 11, 2011, 3:16 pm

    here is a brand new video of some of the boys on the team. it occurred to me there are probably kids in the system who have been abused who are not speaking out. these kids are in denial. it is unbelievable..they are excited about getting to the rose bowl.

    • DBG
      November 11, 2011, 3:52 pm

      annie, I think those kids were writers for the paper.

  10. Bumblebye
    November 11, 2011, 3:24 pm

    I’m a parent who’s had to wear this goddam awful t-shirt. It. Is. Hell.
    Over 20 years ago, but there was some help available. My boy came thru after some tough teen years (it happened when he was ten, a number of his friends were also victimised/preyed upon by the same scoutmaster). The abuser served a mere 15months of a two and half year sentence, and sent a self serving apology letter. Pathetic for the abuse of over a dozen kids.

    There is no excuse for any institution not knowing *how* these creeps wheedle their way in and not setting up systems that can very much reduce the possibility of it happening. None whatsoever.

    • lobewyper
      November 11, 2011, 7:48 pm


      Thanks for sharing. What happened to your son and family is absolutely reprehensible and I don’t know how you’ve all managed to deal with it–glad your son is doing OK!

  11. jayn0t
    November 11, 2011, 11:22 pm

    I disagree. I’d never heard of Joe Paterno until this. Now I’m bombarded, whenever I look at a TV, with the insinuation that he is a child molester. He hasn’t been convicted in a court of law, so how can we convict him in a blog? It’s trial by media. In some countries, the media is not allowed to report allegations like this until after the trial.

  12. Joseph Glatzer
    November 11, 2011, 11:26 pm

    Right on Phil. My mom is an alumni of Penn State, and Paterno is a semi-God in her eyes, and the eyes of many natives of Pittsburgh. I also have always had warm feelings for the team, but I tend to agree with you on this. A child’s innocence is sacred, Paterno is a bum…

  13. Avi_G.
    November 12, 2011, 12:20 am

    Is this another indicator of the moral collapse of a country mired in financial and political corruption?

    It seems the people who are supposed to be held accountable are being protected thanks to money and connections. Yeah, that sounds like corruption. And the same goes for the Catholic church and sexual abuse.

  14. yourstruly
    November 12, 2011, 7:49 pm

    there’s a huge uproar in china over the episode last month in which several people walked by a little girl who’d been run over right in front of them

    without them even stopping to help?

    lots of self-questioning along the line of what has china become?

    material considerations there being more important than a child’s life?

    likewise at penn state material considerations being more important now than the dignity and well being of a 10 year old boy who was caught being sodomized by a football coach, but the incident wasn’t reported to the police

    what ever happened to their much touted values?

    lots of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, that’s what

  15. dahoit
    November 13, 2011, 11:02 am

    Football is Americas new religion.And Paterno is one of its saints.Notice how this stuff came out after he became the winningest? coach in college football history.

  16. Justice Please
    November 14, 2011, 2:35 pm


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