A 32-minute video released this week on YouTube takes up the case for Joe Paterno, the late Penn State football coach who was fired four days after a grand jury presentment revealed he had been told of sexual abuse of a young boy at the hands of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
The film, entitled “Framing Paterno,” is the creation of John Ziegler, a conservative filmmaker who specializes in media criticism. One of his prior productions took the media to task for its treatment of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Ziegler, a graduate of Holy Ghost Prep in Bucks County, talks to the most vocal critics of media coverage of Joe Paterno and what he knew after the arrest of Sandusky on Nov. 5, 2011. Those included former Nittany Lion Franco Harris and trustee Anthony Lubrano. The filmmaker also spoke with Joseph Amendola, Sandusky’s attorney.
The movie presents evidence that Ziegler said exonerates Paterno, who was fired on Nov. 9. He said it claims Paterno wasn’t told in detail by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary in 2001 about what McQueary saw when he discovered Sandusky in the shower with a young boy at the Lasch Football Building.
The purpose of the film, according to Ziegler, is to refute “a largely false narrative to fit (the media’s) own agenda.”
The film points out that the only three counts of which Sandusky was acquitted at his trial last June were based on details of what McQueary testified he saw that night. It also interviews a former teammate in the 1990s who said McQueary was not “trustworthy.”
The film also focuses on the Freeh Report, with all interview subjects criticizing the report as not being supported by facts. It claims that chairman Louis Freeh deliberately held a press conference summarizing the report’s findings before people had a chance to read it, and that the media automatically accepted the summary without further examination.
Former prosecutor and Penn State football player Christian Marrone said he was “startled by the lack of any kind of sufficient evidence to back up the hellacious claims, in particular as it related to coach Paterno” in the Freeh report. The report said Paterno knew of a 1998 police investigation of a complaint against Sandusky for his behavior with a child, but the film emphasized that no charges had resulted from that probe.
To refute statements in the Freeh report that Paterno did not report Sandusky for fear of unfavorable publicity, the movie interviewed Penn State quarterback Rashard Casey, who was arrested during his career on charges of assaulting a police officer. Casey said the fact that Paterno kept him on the team after his arrest meant he did not worry about bad publicity.
At one point in the film, Ziegler goes after ESPN reporter Mark Schwartz on the sideline following the network’s telecast of the Penn State season opener. Ziegler said Schwartz, who was ESPN’s primary reporter on the allegations of child abuse against former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, covered up the release of that story but jumped all over Paterno and Penn State after Sandusky’s arrest.
Harris repeats a familiar complaint that Paterno never received “due process” during the investigation.
Marrone said the university would not be able to move forward “until we get the truth. We’re not going to let the board of trustees or this president (Rodney Erickson) act like we’re bad people.”
Ziegler said that finding the truth would be difficult, like “going uphill into the wind on ice with lead bricks on our feet.”