The long- -- and I mean loooong -- awaited Freeh report on the Penn State scandal came out this morning. I think there needs to be a new word in the English language that means "shocking yet not in any way surprising," since that's how the Freeh report felt...like so many recent news stories. Powerful people lied, misbehaved and covered things up -- largely to protect their own rear end as well as each other's rear end. Depending on how cynical you are, it was either a) worst than you expected or b) as bad as you expected.
For me, it was as bad as I expected, which is pretty bad. The critical piece, though, was this: Most of us who followed this case believe that the highest-level people at Penn State -- including coach Joe Paterno -- knew that Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky was likely a pedophile as early as an aborted 1998 probe, or three full years before the shower-rape-sighting that's received so much attention. What else, besides the scandal, could explain how in 1999 Sandusky abruptly went from Paterno heir apparent to early retirement?
So, yeah, you'll be shocked, shocked to learn that...Paterno knew. Everybody knew:
Freeh was asked if Paterno perjured himself when he testified before the grand jury that he did not know about the 1998 shower incident involving Sandusky. [EDITOR'S NOTE: PATERNO WAS NOT SPECIFICALLY ASKED BY THE GRAND JURY IF HE KNEW ABOUT THE 1998 INCIDENT, but rather if he had heard "of any other inappropriate sexual conduct by Jerry Sandusky with young boys"].
Paterno's response to the grand jury was:
"I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it. You did mention - I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I don't know. I don't remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor."
Answering the question about whether Paterno perjured himself, Freeh said, "I'm not going to comment on whether he perjured himself or not," Freeh said. "What I will say is, as you'll see in our report, there's several emails -- contemporaneous emails -- in 1998 which we found by the way which show that he's clearly following the case. He's clearly following the 1998 investigation. The coach wants to be advised. What's going on. So the notion that there was no attention paid at the time is completely contradicted by the evidence."
More details about the 1998 emails are here. We'll never know if Paterno could have been charged with perjury for that testimony, and frankly it doesn't matter much. The court of public opinion is coming back with its verdict, and it doesn't look good.