Reactions to the Freeh report on Penn State University
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A collection of reactions to today's release of Louis Freeh's report on Penn State University, its football program, leadership and culture. They were collected by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Liz Navratil, Laura Olson, Karen Langley, Eleanor Chute and Mary Niederberger.
Two attorneys for former university president Graham Spanier, Timothy K. Lewis and Peter F. Vaira, released a written statement:
"Unfortunately, Judge Freeh's conclusion, repeated often during his press conference this morning, that Dr. Spanier was engaged in a course of 'active concealment,' is simply not supported by the facts or by the report itself.
"Not only did Dr. Spanier never conceal anything from law enforcement authorities, but prior to 2011 he was never contacted by law enforcement officials, or any other officials, about any criminal activities now attributed to Sandusky. And as he told Judge Freeh himself last Friday and has steadfastly maintained, at no time in his 16 years as President of Penn State was Dr. Spanier told of any incident involving Jerry Sandusky that described child abuse, sexual misconduct, or criminality of any nature.
"While we disagree with certain of Judge Freeh's conclusions, Dr. Spanier joins with others in hoping that the University will never have to endure such a traumatic chapter again. This has been a painful episode in the history of a great university, and the thoughts and prayers of Dr. Spanier, and all of us, continue to be with the victims and their families."
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly released this written statement:
"We respect the efforts by Louis Freeh and his investigators to explore the institutional and policy questions involving the Pennsylvania State University that have been raised as the result of the Jerry Sandusky case.
"The Freeh Report should prove helpful to decision makers, the Penn State community and the public-at-large in understanding how this disturbing situation developed, as well as how to prevent it from being repeated in the future.
"Throughout this entire time, the focus of the Attorney General's Office has been on the criminal process -- seeking justice for the victims of Jerry Sandusky's predatory sexual abuse and identifying other individuals who may also have violated state laws.
From the beginning, Judge Freeh clearly stated that his work would not interfere with any criminal investigations and that any materials related to possible criminal conduct would be provided to authorities.
"Today's release of the Freeh Report will not hinder the continuing work of our statewide investigating grand jury, nor will it impact ongoing criminal prosecutions."
A spokesman for her office, Nils Frederikson, declined to comment on how the investigations might include the late Joe Paterno, saying the grand jury investigation and other criminal cases involving others tied to the scandal is still ongoing.
Gov. Tom Corbett told reporters in Harrisburg this afternoon he had not yet read the report and he declined to specifically address the finding that four top university administrators failed to protect children from sexual abuse by former assistance football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Mr. Corbett pointed to remarks by the attorney general in November and said the investigation led by Mr. Freeh continued after that point.
"I can in my mind jump to a lot of different conclusions, but I don't think it would be proper for me to jump to a public conclusion at this point in time without having full knowledge of the report," he said.
Mr. Corbett said he will not attend the Board of Trustees meeting Friday because of a meeting of the National Governors Association. He said he expects to read the report tonight.
Asked to comment on the legacy of Mr. Paterno, one of the four officials accused in the report of failing to protect children, Mr. Corbett said: "I don't think I need to say anything to the people about the reputation of Joe Paterno. That's not my job."
The governor referenced remarks made by Mr. Paterno before his death in January.
"He said he wished he would have done more, and so do I," Mr. Corbett said. "History will judge us all."
Dave Woodle, vice chairman of The Second Mile, a charity founded by Mr. Sandusky to help troubled youth, emailed this response:
"The Freeh report was primarily focused on Penn State operations and therefore it would be inappropriate for us to make any broad comments. However we did cooperate with the investigation team and based on an initial review of the report we have nothing to add to the specific statements regarding The Second Mile."
Nike, Inc., executives issued the following written statements after deciding to rename the company's Joe Paterno Child Development Center after reading the contents of the Freeh report:
Mark Parker, president and chief executive officer: "I have been deeply saddened by the news coming out of this investigation at Penn State. It is a terrible tragedy that children were unprotected from such abhorrent crimes. With the findings released today, I have decided to change the name of our child care center at our World Headquarters. My thoughts are with the victims and the Penn State community."
Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman of the board: "Other than my parents, my college coach, Bill Bowerman, was the biggest influence in my life. Bill Bowerman and Joe Paterno shared some great qualities. Throughout Joe Paterno's career, he strived to put young athletes in a position to succeed and win in sport but most importantly in life. Joe influenced thousands of young men to become better leaders, fathers and husbands.
"According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains."
Janet Rosenzweig, interim executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania, said children "developmentally are incapable of protecting themselves from a skilled predator in the best of circumstances. When you've got an entire community trying to hide it, I think we've got the worst of circumstances."
Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania is an operating division of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Ms. Rosenzweig, who earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Penn State and had Mr. Spanier as a professor, said, "It broke my heart."
From a written statement issued by Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi:
"The report reinforces my belief that state law must be improved to better protect our children from such horrifying attacks. We will do everything in our power to help ensure nothing like this ever happens again in our Commonwealth."
In written statement issued by Pennsylvania state Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia:
"Today is a shameful day for Penn State University. The Freeh Report demonstrates an institutionalized cover up at the school regarding sexual predator Jerry Sandusky. These findings demonstrate the insane misplaced priorities often present in our culture. Winning football games and university prestige should never matter more than protecting kids from sexual abuse."
Maribeth Schmidt, spokeswoman for Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, said the Freeh report confirmed what her group already suspected -- a lack of strong leadership on the part of the board of trustees:
"His report is the first time that it's been documented that there is a general lack of leadership. The absence of any knowledge (about the incidents) is what we find to be most scathing. It kind of lines up with how they run the board. They have a rubber stamp philosophy. They have appeared to not be curious, not only to not ask the tough questions but not ask any questions. It validates our constant criticism of their lack of leadership."
Ms. Schmidt said her group, which has close to 10,000 members, will research Penn State's policies and bylaws for information on how to remove and replace trustees.
While she said she thought the Freeh report was thorough and provides answers to many questions, "the story won't be fully written until we see the judicial process through."
Cathleen Palm is executive director of the Protect Our Children Committee, a statewide advocacy group based in Berks County:
"It was probably hard to believe people could feel more shock and awe. Then the report came today. I think it's like shock and awe multiplied a million times.
"I think it's just really hard to come to grips with the fact that so many adults had so many opportunities to slam the door shut so that Jerry Sandusky could not groom and victimize children and instead of slamming the door shut, it's like they held the door for him."
She added: "We can't undo the pain of the victimization. I just hope the shock doesn't wear off and we all have a greater consciousness going forward that it is our job and it is our responsibility to protect every child from all forms of child abuse."
First Published July 12, 2012 1:23 pm