Bobby Gunther Walsh
John Ziegler. We had him in Lehigh Valley Magazine last issue. We were talking about the framing of Joe Paterno, and he laid out a very strong case about the media, in general, rushing to judgment, having agendas, not necessarily doing their homework and really digging for the news. And I feel he covered that well, but I wanted to get to in this part. For example, why do you reach your conclusions? I mean obviously because of their history, etc. and some of the stuff that unfolded in the media, John. But what specifically were they not covering, or what facts have they failed to bring out? I want to get to the facts because I’ve been talking to you for about two years, but some of the listeners don’t know the basic facts that you’ve covered with me.
Well, here is the bottom line. In November of 2011, the media told us that Mike McQueary unequivocally saw a rape of a 10-year-old boy, he told Joe Paterno about it and then Joe Paterno did nothing about it. That was the narrative that the media created. We now know that narrative is almost 100 percent false.
In what way?
I don’t believe there was even a sexual assault that night. In fact, the victim in the case, Victim No. 2, was on record publicly three different times in the year of 2011 as a 24-year-old married sergeant in the Marine Corps saying that Mike McQueary is not telling the truth and that Jerry Sandusky never did anything sexual with him and that, specifically that night, they were simply goofing around in the shower. I believe that McQueary’s own actions show that he did not witness a rape because he did not make himself known to Sandusky or the boy, who was not 10 years old but was 14 years old at the time.
How do we know this now 24-year-old former Marine wasn’t just saying he wasn’t assaulted because he’s embarrassed?
Well, because there are a couple of things. First of all, I understand the issue of compliant victimization. I get that there are certain victims who are afraid or embarrassed to say that they were assaulted. But let’s take a look, and this is one of those problems with this case – in order to get someone with the facts of what really happened, you have to get somewhat in the weeds. And I would suggest to you that this was very different than a normal situation where a victim had someone knock on their door and got surprised and got asked, “Were you ever assaulted by Jerry Sandusky?” And of course they are going to say, “No, no, no.” This was a situation where he proactively wrote letters to the editor in his own name. Apparently Jerry approved it for him to come forward in September of that year and do a police interview before Jerry got arrested, and he said the same thing. And then in the middle of a giant crap storm on November 9, 2011, he comes into Jerry Sandusky’s office, and he gives a very extensive, very declarative – people can read it for themselves on our website, framingpaterno.com – statement saying that nothing ever happened. It is not the same thing as some being surprised and saying, “No, no, no. I was never assaulted by Jerry Sandusky,” because of them being embarrassed. He was proactive about it.
Even by McQueary’s own testimony, he said that he told Joe he thought he saw something sexual in nature but he wasn’t sure, and he said he did not, by his own description, get descriptive with Joe because of his age and out of respect of him. That’s what he says. Here are a couple of things that people probably don’t know. I’m not sure that many people realize that, in 1998, I think Sandusky had just stepped down from the program. Joe was not allowed by law to know about any of those allegations in 1998 and in 2001. Joe Paterno was being held responsible for a guy who was a former coach. A lot of people, when I tell them that Jerry Sandusky was no longer a Penn State coach, they go, “What?”
That’s exactly right. We did a poll, a scientific poll, and we paid a lot of money to do the research. And we found that the national public has not a clue about the facts of this case, and that’s one of the things that they don’t understand, that Jerry was a former assistant coach that had already retired. By the way, for those who think he retired because of this, because of the 1998 episode, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a known pedophile on your staff for two more football seasons after the allegation, which was found to be unfounded by a full investigation by law enforcement. And, by the way, the mother of the victim in the 1998 case approved of her son seeing Jerry for another 12 years in which there was not even one allegation of any sort.
I want to switch to Joe Paterno and the fact that Joe Paterno should have done something different because after I hear all of this stuff now, we kind of feel like McQueary could have messed up. You obviously think that Joe didn’t cover it up?
No, gosh no. It absolutely makes no sense, and there is no evidence.
Just recently one of the attorneys on the case in the attorney general’s office asked that, and he said, “Based on the evidence, they said, ‘Did Joe Paterno cover this up?’” and he said, “Absolutely not, and I’m basing that off of the evidence.”
Right. Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor in the Sandusky case, said to CBS that Joe Paterno was not involved in a cover up. And I believe he said that because of the very interview that I had with his office that I released in my book where Joe Paterno makes it clear that he was not involved in any sort of cover up. He was not even in the loop of the final decision as to what to do with Sandusky. But what really gets me about this Paterno thing is had no motive to engage in a cover up. In fact he would have been a hero had he been the person who put Jerry Sandusky behind bars. And, by the way, sometimes we miss the most obvious truths in a story this complex: without Joe Paterno’s testimony, not only did Curly and Shultz not get indicted, but I believe that not even Jerry Sandusky gets indicted because no one would be backing up Mike McQueary’s testimony, they would be going up against Jerry Sandusky without any witnesses. So Joe Paterno is a large part of the reason that Jerry Sandusky is in jail today. That’s No. 1. The first article about Joe Paterno by Sara Ganim, who won a Pulitzer Prize, which she didn’t deserve in this case, November 5, 2011, has a headline, “Joe Paterno Praised for His Reaction to Child Sex Abuse Suspicions.” The reality is that Joe Paterno did exactly what he was supposed to do.
I have to get certain facts out that people are unaware of. People don’t realize that Louis Freeh had two months before Joe Paterno’s passing to interview him, and he never did. Don’t you think that you’d be interviewing the very guy that is being accused of all of this?
Well, at Louis Freeh’s press conference, he said that this was a scheduling issue, that they tried to get it done. Joe Paterno had offered himself up, but he couldn’t get it done or something of that nature. And then later on, once he got a lot of heat, Louis Freeh actually tried to claim that Joe Paterno refused to do an interview, which there is absolutely no evidence of, and it contradicts his own statement at his press conference. But you’re right.
But wait a minute. Joe Paterno did do an interview with the Washington Post. So he was willing to give an interview.
Right, and I personally think that interview was ill-conceived. I mean the reality is that he did do an interview. He wanted to do a press conference two days or three days after Jerry Sandusky was arrested, and Penn State cancelled it. And I believe it was cancelled for various reasons from John Surma, who was an anti-Paterno board member, who was the person who actually announced Joe Paterno’s firing later the next day. But here’s what the reality is: Joe Paterno did exactly what the book said he was supposed to do, which was inform his superior and then stay out of it. Because you’ve got to remember, not only is he no longer Jerry Sandusky’s boss, but as Joe Paterno is a God of State College, anything that he does in any direction is going to be extremely prejudicial in any case. So it would have been ludicrous if he would have done anything more. The notion that he should have called the police is flat-out hilariously absurd because you’re Joe Paterno. You’re going to call the police, they’re going to say, “What did you see?” He’s going to say, “I saw nothing.” “Well, then why are you calling?” “Well because my graduate assistant saw something for three seconds through the mirror in a shower.” That’s ridiculous.
So what do you feel he should have done?
He did exactly the right thing. He’s not Jerry Sandusky’s employer. He’s not his boss. He went to his superior. This is why we have rules; this is why we have a hierarchy. He went to the athletic director and the head of the campus police and said, “Hey, look into this. Mike McQueary said he saw something bad.” And that’s what they did. They looked into it. And, by the way, they interviewed Jerry Sandusky, and they told Jerry Sandusky’s employer at The Second Mile, who was a mandated reporter for child sex abuse, exactly what happened. And The Second Mile knew damn right well who Victim No. 2 was. Victim No. 2 ended up being their keynote speaker at an event for The Second Mile a year later. He was very well known to The Second Mile. Jerry told the head of The Second Mile who the boy was, and they knew immediately there was nothing to worry about because they knew Jerry’s relationship with the boy. At least that’s what they thought. The reality is that there was no cover up here, and it’s ludicrous to think that it was.
You said that Joe had no motive. Well how about Joe was trying to save his football program?
So, wait a minute. His football program would have been damaged by the revelation that an ex-assistant coach was a pedophile and that they were the ones outing him. How does that work? By the way, a year before this episode, Joe stood beside his quarterback, Rashard Casey, who was being accused of assaulting a police officer. He took all sorts of negative publicity for that, and guess what happened? Paterno was exonerated because Casey was not guilty and ended up getting a six-figure settlement from the Hoboken Police Department. So the reality was that Joe Paterno didn’t give a damn about getting negative publicity, and he wouldn’t have gotten any negative publicity. He would have been a hero if he had somehow put out that Jerry Sandusky truly was a pedophile.
People are wondering what your motivation is, and we sort of touched on that you feel the media just doesn’t do their job, but I don’t know that you were setting up to do that at first. You’re a documentary filmmaker. Were you thinking you were going to make money because this has actually hurt your career? What was your motivation in all of this?
My motivation in this was that I saw an injustice that needed to be corrected. I had a particular passion for this story because I’ve devoted most of my career to media criticism, and I think this was a classic case where the media got it wrong for a lot of the same reasons that they get a lot of stories wrong. And yeah I thought at first I was going to be able to make a documentary film out of this, and I did make one, which I released for free. I’m one of the few people, I might be the only person in the world, who understands what happened in this case because I interviewed Sandusky from prison. I know this story backwards and forwards. There was a massive injustice here on many different levels and, if somebody else, as I said many times, if somebody else, a real celebrity, was willing to take up this cause, I would step aside immediately. But unfortunately nobody has the guts to do that because nobody wants to get in front of this freight train because they saw what happened to me when I went on the Today Show. I ended up getting destroyed by every media outlet that wouldn’t even speak to me because they have to protect their narrative. To me, this story exhibits so much that is wrong with America, so much that is wrong with the media. The truth doesn’t matter. Cowardice reigns. Courage is dead. And injustice was done. I’m sorry that I believe an injustice should be righted, and since I’m one of the few people to be able to do that or to be able to understand that, that’s why I continued this fight.
Note: The opinions expressed in this interview do not represent that of “Lehigh Valley Magazine.”