Buzz Bissinger on Joe Paterno: “He was not a good guy. He wasn’t. He was power crazy, he listened to nobody…”November 18, 2011 – 5:30 am by Michael Bean
We’ve tried to limit our interview coverage of the Jerry Sandusky and Penn State sex scandal to those either directly involved with the program or with close ties to the individuals at the heart of the sordid saga. But let’s make an exception for the always-opinionated Buzz Bissinger. No, not just because he’s opinionated, but because he’s a Pennsylvanian who knows the how state and local politics work in the state as well as anybody from his time as a reporter and all that went into researching and writing a ‘A Prayer For The City.’ Bissinger also had some outstanding stuff to say about Michael Vick, Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as what the Phillies front office should do with Jimmy Rollins — but as far as the transcription goes, read on for his take on Sandusky, Joe Paterno and the legal proceedings that are in store.
Bissinger joined WIP in Philadelphia to talk about his impressions of the Penn State sex scandal, the grand jury testimony of McQueary potentially be contradicted by an email the former assistant sent, why he can’t believe that McQueary’s attorneys have not kept a tighter lid on him, how Bob Costas told him the interview was originally supposed to be with Sandusky’s attorney, being totally creeped out by Sandusky’s comments during the interview, why he hasn’t read any of the New York Times’ coverage of the scandal because of how bad they butchered the Duke Lacrosse rape story, how the narrative of Joe Paterno being a good wholesome person is totally bogus, and how Paterno’s limitless power in the area probably made him think the whole incident would blow over.
On his take on the whole Penn State sex scandal mess and what he thinks might be still to come:
“Well I’ve got to say that of all the things that I’ve covered in my life, because of the crimes involved, because it involves sports which has gone completely out of control — so I can’t make wise cracks about it — the most significant thing about it is that e-mail from Mike McQueary. Because what it does now is it presents a credibility issue that a defense attorney… and hopefully it won’t be — not hopefully, if it’s Amendola than the prosecution has a shot. But we do have a situation where he’s conflicting his grand jury testimony. And that’s what any defense attorney looks for. And the ace-in-the-hole in this case if you have one is you have an adult eye-witness to sexual assault of a child. You virtually never, ever have that in a case like this. McQueary doesn’t strike me as particularly smart, but I also think the prosecution, they should have babysat this guy 24 hours a day and said to this guy 80 times a day, ‘you don’t talk to anyone, you don’t email anyone, because everything gets out and if your credibility is in anyway affected, they will try to drive a hole through it.’ Because otherwise, these case always boil down to trying to get at the victim. And in many of these victims, they can’t locate them — in the case of the janitor (I was listening to you yesterday), he has dementia. I mean, this guy could walk if they’re not careful.”
What he made of Sandusky’s interview with Bob Costas earlier in the week:
“Well like everyone else, I was shocked. And even more shocking…I know Bob, and I talked to Bob, and I said ‘Bob, it was a great interview’, which it was. And he said ‘yeah, it was a great interview, and the interesting thing is it was completely accidental. I was going to interview the lawyer, and the lawyer Amendola says hey you want to talk to Jerry.’ I mean, like for a reporter, that;s like multiple orgasm. Of course he wants to talk to him. My impression of Sandusky was I could see him and I could feel him — and I say this in the Daily Beast column today — it doesn’t matter if it was over the phone. He was creepy, he was despicable, I felt he was arrogant, he had this very flat affect in his voice, and I just think he’s a pathological manipulator, and there was this arrogance to him that he could beat this. And he was really trying to woo the public just like he wooed his victims with whatever — with small talk, with gifts, with whatever, this modulated voice of ‘I’m not guilty of anything.’ Yet he incriminates himself basically. He admits that he takes showers with kids as if that’s normal behavior, and towel snapping. I mean, I don’t know, I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms and clubhouses — I can’t imagine 55 year old guy in a shower with a 10 year old kid towel snapping. And he admits to horse play. Obviously he did nothing to help his case.
“I can’t get the sound of his voice out of my mind. I can’t get out of my mind the fact that this guys is on 100,000 non-secure bail because Penn State and Center County is basically incestuous. I’m serious. It reminds of me Deliverance, the movie, and Appalachia. It’s all a walking conflict of interest because of the God of Penn State in Paterno. The judge sets the bail, she does not disclose that she’s a volunteer for 2 Mile — every step of this case has been fraught with pratfalls, and now you have the latest which is McQueary. It just seems to get worse, and worse, and worse. And I think the next step is — and I think it’s an interesting question — why did [Governor Tom] Corbett take so long? Why did it take three years for the grand jury? In a situation like this, if you have a sexual predator that you think is roaming about, you nail the guy; you don’t wait for three years. Was it politics? Was it because he was running for Governor? There was a story in the Pittsburgh paper about that. You know, Pennsylvania is a very, very strange, backwards state. It’s laws are very, very strange, and it’s a state of essentially corrupt and vacant politics.”
What’s he thinks of the New York Times story noting the sale of Joe Paterno’s to his wife for pennies on the dollar:
“Well I don’t care about this estate planning think. I’d like to point out that the New York Times’ coverage of the Duke Lacrosse scandal was the worst of every major newspaper in the country; they defended the prosecutor to the hill. I would also like to point out that the great Maureen Down — or the headline writer for her column — referred to Penn State as Penn. And that’s true. So I don’t have much faith in the New York Times. What it says to me is we all believe our narratives. It was the same for Michael Vick. We all believed in this guy coming out from prison and becoming a great quarterback. And you know what? He believed it too for awhile. This narrative is of Joe Paterno… like Charlie Manuel — Charlie Manuel is folksy; Joe Paterno is not folksy. Anyone who has dealt with him — ask Frank Fitzpatrick who wrote a book about him — he’s nasty, he’s arrogant, he’s elitist, and he’s always…he’s doing a lot of estate planning, he’s moving money here, he’s moving money there — he was not a good guy. He wasn’t. He was power crazy, he listened to nobody, and you know, the longer this goes on, and the more I hear about him, the less and less respect I have for him. Obviously he did nothing because he didn’t want to deal with it, thought it was unimportant, I mean who cares? The man really has no, as far as I’m concerned, no morality at all. At all. He didn’t see this coming in July. Trust me, Joe thought this was going to blow over. Joe thought this was going to blow over because he’s Joe Paterno, the great god of Penn State. And trust me, he would not have retired ever. He would still be coaching until finally, because he can’t get out of the way of anybody on the sidelines, the trainer hit him and finally he died of two broken legs.”