Sue Paterno and her husband were not aware that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile, the widow of the former Penn State head football coach told Katie Couric in an interview televised Monday.
“Let me ask you this, Katie — Jerry adopted children, the experts vetted him. He had foster children, the experts vetted him. The executive director of Second Mile is a child psychologist,” Sue Paterno said, as she began to respond to Couric’s question if her husband should have done more to stop Sandusky.
“If the experts don’t know, how can we know?”
The interview aired on ABC’s “Katie” Monday afternoon and featured a more emotional side to the Paterno family’s campaign to undo what their lawyer’s analysis termed a “rush to injustice” by former FBI director Louis Freeh. The interview followed the release Sunday of the analysis, which blasted the Freeh report by calling it a “profound failure” that made too many assumptions without interviewing crucial witnesses.
Couric did not grill Sue Paterno during the interview. Instead, Couric was gentle yet firm and asked tough questions.
Sue Paterno told Couric that Joe Paterno did as much as he could in 2001, when he received a report from then-grad assistant Mike McQueary that Sandusky was in a shower with a young boy. Paterno reported it to his boss, athletic director Tim Curley, who reported it to senior administrator Gary Schultz and university president Graham Spanier.
“If he knew in 2001 what he then learned in 2011, yes. He would have done more,” Sue Paterno said, answering another question from Couric about whether her husband could have done more to stop Sandusky. “Anyone would. But we didn’t have that benefit because we didn’t know anything.”
Sue Paterno did not think her husband knew about an incident in 1998 when Sandusky showered with a young boy, she told Couric. That incident was reported to police by the young boy’s mother, but despite a sting in which Sandusky admitted showering with the boy to the mother, the incident was never prosecuted.
On the set of Couric’s show, Sue Paterno was joined by three of her children, Mary Kay Hort, Diana Giegerich and Jay Paterno. They spoke of the memories they have of their father, such as his clocks being set five minutes ahead or the family man that he was.
Mary Kay Hort said the family’s efforts over the past few days are not about restoring the Hall of Fame coach’s wins the NCAA took away as part of a series of harsh sanctions, or returning the statue that had been outside Beaver Stadium.
Instead, she said, it is the “right thing to do.”
“My dad was all about honestly, integrity, commitment and hard work,” Hort said.
Sue Paterno said she became physically ill in November 2011 after reading the grand jury’s presentment that outlined the allegations of abuse against Sandusky.
“Our lives are about children and making them better, not hurting them,” she said. “It’s vile.”
Sue Paterno said she does not know the names of the young men who were abused by Sandusky. When Couric asked what Sue Paterno would say to them if she had the chance, Sue Paterno responded: “I’m praying for you every day, many times during the day.”
Former Nittany Lion Greg Buttle, a linebacker who played in the 1970s and went onto a career in the NFL, said the guilty party is not Paterno, but is Sandusky. He defended Paterno and blamed Penn State’s trustees for scapegoating the head coach.
“The Joe I know, the Joe my fellow players know, the Joe that we former players know, if he ever knew that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile, there would have been an issue with it, and he would have taken care of it,” Buttle said.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.