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Monday, November 19, 2012
The Framing of Joe Paterno mini-movie creating a stir
The coverage of the Sandusky scandal, specifically relating to Joe Paterno, is dissected on a new video, which harshly criticizes the national media narrative and the Freeh Report
For most of a year now, the Internet has been roiling with furor over Joe Paterno’s inaction.
That furor has been surpassed, though, by the flip-side: Those who believe the fact distortion, truth omission, superficial media coverage, pre-determined perspectives and miscarried justice relating to Paterno in the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal has been a travesty piled right on top of the Sandusky tragedy.
Now it has gone to the big screen. Almost.
The "mini-movie" released last week on the website www.FramingPaterno.com, titled appropriately "The Framing of Joe Paterno," should be required viewing.
Not just for Penn Staters swept up in the avalanche of the Sandusky scandal, but anyone interested in how so many critical facts have been distorted or completely submerged by the colossal, misguided national media narrative and the Freeh Report, which have been driving this story throughout with untruth after half-truth after fact error.
The Framing of Joe Paterno is “intended as a small sampling of what the full documentary might look like if we get the support to do it,’’ the website says.
The truth? The movie specifically does not claim a “conspiracy” against Paterno.
So right out of the chute, it’s Paterno Defenders 1, Freeh Believers 0, when it comes to getting the facts right regarding The Framing of Joe Paterno.
So then what is this mini-movie? It’s more like a butterfly-flaps-its-wings-in-Argentina-and-somehow-leads-to-a-devastating-tsunami-in-China tale. The national media, PSU Board of Trustees and Freeh, acting irresponsibly, helped ensure all roads led to calamity - the tsunami-like downfall and disgracing of Paterno - and not to the full truth about the scandal, by misreporting, ignoring and distorting facts.
The 32-minute short juxtaposes a stream of breathless, erroneous, patently untrue media clips - many from the chaotic, explosive first days of the scandal - with the measured, fact-based reasoning of various Penn State-related individuals who have closely monitored this story and long questioned the damning conclusions about Paterno, including PSU football alums Franco Harris, Christian Marrone and Rashard Casey, new PSU Board of Trustees member Anthony Lubrano, and PSU professor Spencer Niles.
(Interestingly, the movie’s producer, John Ziegler, is not a Penn State alum and did not have any strong connections to the school prior to the scandal, though he grew up in Bucks County. His website says he is an author, broadcaster, commentator and filmmaker,and it has lots of information about his history and background you can read for yourself: http://www.johnziegler.com/biography.asp)
Harris especially has been an outspoken, fearless Paterno supporter, a calm, steady voice swimming upstream against the strident anti-Paterno masses. So his presence in this mini-movie was almost mandatory. His love of Paterno is known and obvious. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be objective. Many loved Sandusky too, but now recognize he is sick, perverse and receiving justice.
The movie mostly keeps the reigns on the Paterno sentimentalizing, thankfully. Much more often it allows its sources - Lubrano, Harris, Marrone, etc. - to talk, and they explain how they believe the truth has been mutilated.
While the movie touches on a lot, it focuses on at least two major grossly misreported matters in the Sandusky aftermath:
Mike McQueary’s testimony about what he said he saw in 2001, which actually is significantly different than is asserted in the grand jury presentment. Part of the real story, as the movie sees it - the real truth, culled from testimony and facts - is how the butterfly apparently didn’t even really flap its wings in the first place, i.e. McQueary never reported seeing a rape, as was widely reported by the media ad nauseum and naturally turned public sentiment against Paterno.
And the preposterous assertions made about Paterno from the exceptionally limited “evidence” in the Freeh Report.
The Freeh Report was almost instantly accepted as the full truth by the mainstream media (ESPN and others were crucifying Paterno before even reading all of the evidence, just minutes after it was released - did they ever read it? - citing Freeh’s illogical conclusions) and the PSU Board of Trustees. Yet it since has been assailed by many for its severe deficiencies, and is eviscerated in the film.
Lubrano explains how the PSU BOT officially accepted the Freeh Report without review, discussion or a vote, a chilling revelation (or confirmation), considering the report’s blatant shortcomings and distortions, and the devastating fallout from the report, including brutal NCAA sanctions.
The movie traces the key inaccuracy in the grand jury presentment: McQueary has testified he never used the words anal or rape at any time. Yet that’s exactly what the grand jury presentment claims he reported, and it ultimately led to an incredibly destructive chain of events.
With it embedded in the public’s mind that McQueary had told Paterno, as well as AD Tim Curley and VP Gary Schultz, that he had seen Sandusky rape a boy - the movie opens by showing this inaccuracy reported over and over and over again - the pressure on the school became intense and the BOT fired Paterno without investigation, or even a discussion with him.
Then the BOT compounded matters by seeking to support their panicked decision, and used Freeh’s incomplete, exaggerated work to justify it.
Ultimately, Schultz and Curley’s fate will be determined in court. But Paterno, who was never charged and was initially hailed for doing the right thing (the movie shows a clip from a story by Pulitzer winner Sara Ganim that says so), never was interviewed by Freeh before he died in January despite indicating he wanted to speak to Freeh, and despite Freeh having several weeks to get it done but failing. Also, of course, Paterno then never had a chance to defend himself against the Freeh’s accusations when the report was released in July.
The mini-movie acts as his defense. Or at least an appetizer for the full-length defense to come. It also has its shortcomings. Two of note are a personal attack on McQueary, which is unnecessary, and the use of Joe Amendola, Sandusky's defense attorney, as a source of information to support Paterno. Because he was Sandusky's defense attorney, Amendola is someone many viewers will not have positive feelings about, no matter what he is saying, true or not. Like any documentary that takes a side on a hot-button topic, the movie will have its detractors. Philadelphia Magazine won’t be the only one, not by a long shot.
What’s especially interesting about critiques such as Philadelphia Magazine’s is that it assails people who defend Paterno for being much more concerned with Paterno’s fate than the plight of the victims. But the truth is, the magazine’s complete lack of interest in everything else about the saga shows that they are the ones who truly don’t care about the victims in this tragedy, because they have no interest in trying to get things right.
Not with how the 1998 investigation failed and let Sandusky continue to ply his sickness for another decade-plus; or with how then-attorney general Tom Corbett let the 2008 accusation of Sandusky idle for nearly two years while Sandusky continued to ply his sickness; or with the bizarre, destructive, self-serving actions of the BOT; or with how Freeh’s report could be so obviously incomplete and inaccurate and yet be accepted as complete and accurate; or with how The Second Mile could provide Sandusky an unfettered supply of victims for decades despite warnings; or with how the grand jury presentment could have factual inaccuracies. They obviously just care about seeing Sandusky, Paterno and perhaps some other PSU administrators strung up. Facts, twisted facts, whatever - children were raped, so let's make sure they all fry, and those who might try to defend any of them and seek the truth are contemptible. That seems to be their take.
Here's a different perspective: Joe Paterno and Franco Harris are superior to Tom Corbett and Louis Freeh 11 times out of 10, no matter what we're talking about - unless it's orchestrating large-scale frauds, bullying and threatening staff, and manipulating the truth.
The mini-movie attempts to dig into the morass. For those who have invested countless hours pouring through Sandusky-related materials such as the grand jury testimony/presentment and the Freeh Report in search of the full truth in this epic saga, the release of the mini-movie is a welcome development.
It’s another manifestation of the widespread, simmering dissent, and a sign that the dissent not only isn’t waning, but might be metastasizing.
Hopefully a full-length documentary is on the horizon, to address more of the troubling issues about and to raise awareness that while Sandusky, thankfully, is sentenced to life rotting in prison, so much about all of this still reeks.