Sally Jenkins on Joe Paterno: “He simply lied. I am as unhappy to have to write that as anyone.”

July 16, 2012 – 6:00 am by Steven Cuce

Sally Jenkins will forever be remembered as the last writer to interview Joe Paterno before his death last January. She was the first writer to get an exclusive sit down interview with the man who was being accused of failing to protect against a child sexual predator in Jerry Sandusky. Paterno denied knowing of any wrongdoings prior to 2001 involving Sandusky.

According to the e-mails obtained in the Freeh Report, Paterno did indeed lie to the Washington Post and perjured himself. Jenkins let the sports world know her thoughts after the release of the Freeh Report last Thursday and she didn’t hold back.

Sally Jenkins joined 106.7 The Fan in D.C. with Lavar and Dukes to discuss her column that claims Joe Paterno cared more about his legacy than Jerry Sandusky’s victims, the people who are still in denial regarding Joe Paterno overing up Jerry Sandusky, being the last person to interview Joe Paterno before he passed away, the lack of empathy shown by Joe Paterno/Graham Spanier/Garry Schultz/Tim Curley in the evidence shown from the Freeh Report and the Freeh Report confirming that Joe Paterno was lying to her the last time they spoke.

You have the floor. Your thoughts on your column that claims Joe Paterno cared more about his legacy than Jerry Sandusky’s victims?

“It wasn’t pleasant to write. I liked what I knew about Joe Paterno personally. I liked his family. It wasn’t a pleasurable job, but it was necessary one given the evidence in the Freeh Report.”

Did you feel this piece needed to be written for all the people who are still in denial about Joe Paterno actions despite the evidence shown in the Freeh Report?

“Well it wasn’t that it necessarily had to be written for people who love Joe Paterno. It needed to be written because it’s a fact. That’s the main thing. It needed to be written because Joe Paterno’s account of himself and his actions in 1998 and 2001 do not match up with the physical evidence and the documents and that means he wasn’t truthful and it looks like he perjured himself in front of a grand jury and it had serious repercussions for boys that got molested and were harmed as a result of his actions and untruthfulness.”

How does it make you feel that you were the last person to interview Joe Paterno before he passed away?

“I feel two things. One, at the time he was cooperating witness with the attorney general’s investigation and his testimony in front of the grand jury was very brief. It was only about eight minutes and there wasn’t any indication that he necessarily perjured himself and he hadn’t really spoken about Jerry Sandusky beyond that very brief eight minute appearance. My main feeling at the time was excitement to get the interview. Curiosity to see what he had to say for himself and curiosity then to see his account of himself would hold up to scrutiny and it didn’t. It simply didn’t. Those were my main feelings. In terms of a vested interest in the story. I think we all have a vested interest in figuring out what the hell happened at Penn State? Any parent has a vested interest. Anyone who has a child or cares for a child in their life has a real vested in figuring out how such a massive ethical collapse occurred among people who are very, very bright men and then who seemed at least for most of the rest of their lives to possess moral intelligence. What the hell happened?”

How could all of these adults buy into the hype of Penn State and be afraid to speak against Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky to save these children?

“I think one of the issues if you read the Freeh Report closely, one of the things that happens is none of the four men at the top of Penn State: Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Garry Schultz or Tim Curley ever talks to one of those boys. Have you talked with one of those boys? Have you talked with one of those children you might have had a different opinion. When I talk about self absorption I think you start there. They were talking to each other. None of them talked to Jerry Sandusky because I think they were too uncomfortable with what they might hear or the impression they might get, but it’s striking to the extent where none of the leaders of the university including Joe Paterno ever talked to any of the alleged victims or ever really talked to Jerry Sandusky. They were more concerned about their position. I think the Freeh Report concludes is that what he calls a ‘Striking lack of empathy.’ What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to feel something that someone else might feel to put yourself in their shoes and these four mens didn’t clearly attempt to put themselves in anyone’s position, but their own.”

Did the Freeh Report do it for you? Was this report enough to show you what took place and didn’t take place?

“I think Joe Paterno did clearly, undeniably, wonderful work at Penn State. You [LaVarr Arrington] are evidence of that. He produced a lot of interesting and intelligent young men. You start with the knowledge of the subject. You start there and you go from there and you try to walk it back. In talking with Joe Paterno and asking him four or five times in four or five different…I shaped the question every time trying to make sure he was clear with what I was asking and that I was clear as to what his answer was. Repeatedly I asked him you never had an inkling from 1998? I never had an inkling he said. How could so many people miss this sort of thing? I don’t know. Nobody knew. Everyone thinks it was all over the football building, but nobody knew. Well all of that was flatly contradicted by two e-mails in the Louis Freeh Report. I didn’t Louis Freeh’s opinion or conclusion. All I needed was those e-mails and look back at my own interview notes of Joe Paterno. He simply lied. He knew about 1998 and so did everybody at the top of the university. That makes what happened in 2001 when Mike McQueary comes to them an entirely different story. I am as unhappy to have to write that as anyone because as I say I talked with Joe Paterno and you want to believe in someone like that.”

Listen to Sally Jenkins on 106.7 The Fan in D.C. here

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