Penn State board of trustees Vice Chairman Keith Masser apologized Wednesday to the board for statements he had made accusing university officials of covering up allegations of child sexual abuse against Jerry Sandusky.
In a statement issued on the trustees’ website, Masser recognized that “It was inappropriate to make the comments I did” in an Associated Press interview last week.
In the interview, Masser told the AP that he thought Penn State officials had knowledge of the alleged sexual proclivities of former assistant football coach and that they had worked to hide the situation.
Wednesday, he apologized.
“I regret saying the things that were reported in the media,” he said, adding: “Though there is still a lot of emotion felt by many, we all need to continue to show restraint, to wait for facts before making conclusions.”
On Monday, in response to Masser’s comments, alumni group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship called for Masser’s resignation from the trustees.
“At this time, when the University is dealing with sensitive issues and is involved with multiple court proceedings, we can ill-afford inflammatory and unsubstantiated statements coming from someone in a leadership position,” Michelle Murosky, the group’s founder, said in an online statement.
The group did not post a new statement in the wake of Masser’s apology.
Sandy Deveney, a Penn State graduate and board critic who lives in Potter Township, said he thinks Masser showed a lapse of judgment.
“He should have said no comment,” Deveney said. “There’s a time and a place for comments on such issues, and this was neither. I think that he was out of bounds.”
Trustee Paul Silvis declined to comment on Masser’s original statements, apology or the call for him to resign. But Silvis said he has the “utmost respect” for Masser.
“Keith is a wonderful person, sincere, and a good leader,” Silvis said.
Masser had said in the interview that when the board of trustees ousted Spanier on Nov. 9, it was “because we didn’t have confidence in his ability to lead us through this crisis,” according to the AP report. “We had no idea (at the time) he would be involved in a cover-up.”
Masser stressed that he was speaking for himself and not the entire board, and said he wanted to be careful not to draw premature conclusions.
He reiterated that in the statement he issued Wednesday.
“It is wrong to speculate about outcomes and is not constructive to the legal process,” Masser wrote.
“I remain fully accountable to this misstep and assure you it will not happen again.”
In the interview, Masser had expressed confidence in Louis Freeh, the former FBI director hired by the board of trustees to investigate the scandal.
Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are facing charges that they lied to the grand jury investigating abuse allegations against Sandusky and that they failed to report suspected child sexual abuse in a Penn State locker room in 2001.
Emails reportedly uncovered in the Freeh investigation suggest that Curley and Schultz and former Penn State President Graham Spanier thought that it would be “humane” to not alert legal authorities to allegations against Sandusky.
“I hope the truth comes out, and from a board standpoint it was Judge Freeh’s investigation that found these emails that relate Spanier, Curley and Schultz to the suspected cover-up,” Masser said in the interview that angered the alumni group. “I want the alumni to understand and the stakeholders to understand that this independent investigation is uncovering this information.”
Attorneys for Curley and Schultz have acknowledged that high-level discussions took place among their clients and Spanier concerning allegations of child sex abuse against Sandusky. And NBC has reported that evidence, including emails exchanged by Spanier, Curley and Schultz in 2001, was uncovered by Freeh investigators.
Sandusky is on trial on 51 counts of child sexual abuse. The defense rested Wednesday, with closing arguments scheduled for today.
Staff reporters Anne Danahy and Chris Rosenblum contributed to this report.