Joe Paterno's family is setting itself up for a tough job, downplaying the importance of emails that appear to show the former Pennsylvania State University football coach helped cover up allegations that Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing a child. Over the weekend two representatives for Paterno's family took different tacks in defending the late coach against the allegation that he and other Penn State officials conspired to keep Sandusky's alleged conduct from police. The most recent comes from Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn, who told USA Today's Melanie Eversley that the email leak that led to CNN's Friday story about the alleged cover-up was inappropriate and incomplete:
"Our message to everybody is slow down here," said spokesman Dan McGinn. He said the e-mails, which the school turned over to an investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh, "are all on the record. Everything is going to come out. What's being done here is people are trying to leak something to try to pre-empt the Freeh Commission."
On Saturday, Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers flatly denied Paterno was involved in any kind of cover-up, saying the late head coach couldn't have participated since he didn't use email. StateCollege.com has the full statement:
“Some number of email exchanges between former Penn State officials have apparently been leaked to the media. Since the Paterno family is not in possession of these emails, it would be inappropriate to comment on their supposed content. To be clear, the emails in question did not originate with Joe Paterno or go to him as he never personally utilized email.
“From the beginning, Joe Paterno warned against a rush to judgment in this case. Coach Paterno testified truthfully, to the best of his recollection, in the one brief appearance he made before the Grand Jury.
“As he testified, when informed of an incident involving Jerry Sandusky in 2001, Coach Paterno, followed University procedures and promptly and fully informed his superiors. He believed the matter would be thoroughly and professionally investigated and he did not interfere with or attempt to compromise any investigation.”
Of course, the suggestion that Paterno couldn't have been involved in the emails surrounding the cover-up fails to recognize the content of one message in particular, from athletic director Tim Curley to former university president Graham Spanier, saying he had decided on a course of action "after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe [Paterno] yesterday." Still, as McGinn points out, we still only have a partial record of the men's exchange, and Paterno's not around to defend himself, so perhaps there's something in his advice to "slow down." Unfortunately that's just not how news reporting works.