Then Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum thought enough of Jerry Sandusky nine years ago to sponsor the former Penn State defense coordinator for a “Congressional Angels in Adoption” award, citing his work with a non-profit group he founded to provide care for foster children.
“Its philosophy is simple: it is easier to develop a child than to rehabilitate an adult,” read the citation in the awards dinner program from Sept. 24, 2002.
Sandusky, of course, has been charged with sexual abuse of young boys and Penn State University is under fire for its handling of reports of the coach’s suspicious behavior. The burgeoning scandal reportedly is about to force legendary head coach Joe Paterno to retire.
Santorum, a 1980 PSU graduate, is one of the school’s most distinguished alumni – a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination who represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007. A social conservative and champion of adoption, Santorum is staking his candidacy on an appeal to family values.
Since the scandal broke into the news, Santorum has been circumspect in his comments about it. He has said he does not know Sandusky personally.
And indeed, the guy has been a top philanthropist for a long time, routinely honored by political figures.
On Tuesday, Santorum told ABC News that Paterno deserved the benefit of the doubt because he has “served in such distinction for all those years.” Santorum also said: “Look, I pray and hope that he (Paterno) didn’t do anything he shouldn’t have done, but it certainly looks horrible for the university, horrible for the football program and obviously people were fired, should be fired,” Santorum told ABC News.
The Angels in Adoption awards program is sponsored annually by the non-profit Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.