5:46 p.m. December 13, 2012

Running Cover For The Enablers Of Serial Child Molesters

The saga of Penn State pedophile Jerry Sandusky came to end this past summer, when a jury found him guilty of molesting 10 boys over a period of 14 years and a judge sentenced him to serve out the rest of his life behind bars. Or so it seemed…

Before Sandusky had even been transferred to his new digs at the Greene supermax state correctional facility, a well-greased public relations campaign popped up on the scene defending the people and the university that had hushed up the retired Penn State football coach’s monstrous crimes and enabled him to keep molesting boys for more than a decade. The PR offensive was truly impressive. It involved a phalanx of high profile lawyers, top dollar crisis management professionals, media consultants, astroturf groups and even a teabagger filmmaker—all of them pushing similar story lines that kept the blame focused on Sandusky and exonerated Penn State’s bureaucracy from any wrongdoing.

Why would anyone want to protect a bunch of sleazy serial child molester enablers? The answer is simple: money.

Before the Sandusky scandal, Penn State’s college football program was one of the most profitable in the country, raking in nearly $100 million a year. That all came to an end when investigators revealed that Penn State officials had long been aware of Sandusky’s crimes but had done nothing to stop him. As a result of their complicity, the National Collegiate Athletic Association fined Penn State $60 million, canceled athletic scholarships, vacated all of its football victories going back to 1998 and levied a bunch of other punitive measures. These penalties, combined with the loss of lucrative corporate sponsorships and alumni donations, crippled Penn State’s revenue stream. The New York Times predicted that it would be “almost a decade before Penn State will be in a position to attempt to regain its place as one of the sport’s elite programs.”

How much did Penn State officials know about Sandusky’s crimes? Well, quite a lot.

A multi-year grand jury investigation had uncovered a pile of incriminating evidence showing Penn State’s top brass, including the school’s rockstar college football coach Joe Paterno, knew about Sandusky sick secret going back at least to 1998, but had hushed it up to avoid bad publicity and to keep the Penn State football cash machine going. Evidence of a cover-up, which included correspondence written in code and a secret file kept on Sandusky’s transgressions, was strong enough that three top university administrators—including a Penn State president and the head of campus police—are currently awaiting trial for lying to the grand jury under oath, as well as failing to report Sandusky to the authorities.

Perhaps the most graphic and disgusting evidence of their complicity comes from the grand jury testimony of Mike McQueary, a former Penn State assistant coach who in 2001 walked in on Jerry having sex with a prepubescent boy in the showers of a Penn State locker room.

Here’s a small portion of what he told the grand jury under oath:

Q Now, if I could take you back to you indicated that you were – you heard these rhythmic slapping sounds. Then you looked into – looked into a mirror?

A Yes.

Q Could you describe exactly what transpired at that point?

A Looked in the mirror and shockingly and surprisingly saw Jerry with a boy in the shower. And it appeared that Jerry was directly behind the boy and the boy was up against the wall with his hands up against the wall. Again, that glance or that look may have been a second or two … The boy was up against the wall, facing the wall, his hands maybe shoulder height on the wall. And Jerry was directly behind him in a very, very, very close position with Jerry’s hands wrapped around his waist or midsection. I couldn’t see his actual hands, but his arms were wrapped around.

McQueary told his boss Joe Paterno about what he saw, but Paterno didn’t seem to be in any rush to settle the matter, waiting two days before notifying other Penn State officials because “he did not want to disturb their weekend.” Eventually, the info moved up the chain and McQueary talked with Gary Schultz, the administrator in charge of campus police. Schultz told McQueary that they’d handle the matter from that point on. “In my mind it was like speaking to a DA. It was someone who the police reported to and would know what to do with it,” McQueary told the grand jury.

Yeah, he knew exactly what to do with it. As in: nothing.

Emails, written in code, reveal that officials discussed the matter and decided it would be more “humane” to bury the sordid incident. No attempt was ever made to find out the identity of the child, or do anything to help him.

That worked out well for ol’ Jerry. The year after he was caught raping a boy on Penn State’s campus, Sandusky was honored for his compassionate work with children and orphans by none other than Rick Santorum, the Republican family values Senator from Pennsylvania. Specifically, Santorum nominated Sandusky for a “Congressional Angels in Adoption” for all the great stuff the retired coach’s non-profit organization “Second Mile” had done for children in need. What kind of work? Well, during the trial, prosecutors described Second Mile—which Sandusky set up in the 1970s to “help” underprivileged kids—as personal “victim factory” used by Sandusky to select and “groom” vulnerable boys from broken families.

Apparently Santorum was of a different opinion. The awards dinner brochure praised Second Mile: “Its philosophy is simple: it is easier to develop a child than to rehabilitate an adult.”

This wasn’t the first time Jerry Sandusky was honored by Republican Party bigwigs for his charity work with needy children. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush included Sandusky’s Second Mile into his list of “Thousand Points of Light,” holding it up as a shining example of the immense good that volunteerism and private charity can do. Who needs socialized medicine or government welfare, right?

But Sandusky’s relationship with the GOP went beyond mere charity work. That’s because Penn State’s football program has long been an important part of the Republican political machine. Sandusky’s longtime boss and colleague Joe Paterno had leveraged his football team, as well as his own immense popularity and celebrity, to campaign for every Republican president since Richard Nixon. The old, hunched-over football troll is so close to the Bush family that he was allowed to hug W.’s daughters during Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004.

With serious political connections like these, it wouldn’t be surprising Sandusky’s protection came from beyond the Penn State campus. And indeed, there is compelling evidence that the conspiracy to cover-up Sandusky’s crimes could at very least reach all the way to Tom Corbett, the current Governor of Pennsylvania.

Corbett was Pennsylvania’s Attorney General when the Sandusky investigation was reluctantly launched by the state, and he has been repeatedly criticized for delaying and withholding police resources from the investigation. There’s a serious whiff of impropriety to the whole business, as Corbett took hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from people connected to Sandusky’s Second Mile charity. And there have been repeated calls to investigate Corbett’s handling of the Sandusky case in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

But there’s more… Rumors and dark conspiracy theories have been fueled by the fact the district attorney who had mysteriously dropped a child molestation investigation into Sandusky back in 1998 suddenly went missing in 2005 under very suspicious circumstances and is now presumed dead. His body has never been located, but the DA’s laptop was found dumped in a river with the hard drive ripped out.

So almost from the very beginning, any journalist looking into the Sandusky trial and pursuing honest inquiry wouldn’t be trying to answer the question of whether there was a cover-up, but rather, how far did the cover-up go.

But that’s not the impression you get from the torrent of news stories published right after Sandusky’s conviction in late June: Some of the articles smeared and questioned the credibility of Mike McQueary, the former coach he walked in on Sandusky raping a boy in a Penn State football shower. Others painted Sandusky as some kind of master manipulator/evil genius who had a superhuman ability to dupe everyone around him. There was widespread criticism of an independent investigation into Sandusky’s crimes carried out by former FBI director Louis Freeh—an investigation that not only confirmed the findings of the grand jury, but also unearthed more new evidence pointing at a cover-up.

Where were these stories coming from? Definitely not from any credible source.

For instance: A few dozens of stories, including a segment by ABC’s Nightline, seemed to be generated by a single press conference held by the high-profile legal defense team of former Penn State president, in which his lawyer argued that Sandusky was a “master manipulator” who duped everyone around him, including his client. Dozens, if not hundreds, other stories were filed in response to the made-for-tv antics of a shady “grassroots” group called “Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship” that was being run by a public relations troll who, among other things, had handled PR for a pharma-funded ADHD group. The group issued reports, crashed media events and generally made a lot of baseless noise condemning and disputing evidence of a cover-up—all of it diligently written down and reported by the press.

Even teabagger filmmaker (and Matt Drudge turncoat) John Ziegler got into the mix, launching a website, soliciting donations and finally producing a mini-documentary called “The Framing of Joe Paterno,” in which he supposedly exposed a media conspiracy to frame “Joe Paterno for crimes he didn’t commit” and cause “incredible damage to a university and football program which may not have deserved the unprecedented and illogical punishments they received.” The film screened in Pennsylvania and received weirdly positive coverage in the local press.

If it felt like a coordinated campaign, that’s because it probably was.

By the end of August 2012, Penn State had spent $21 million managing the Sandusky scandal. About half of that paid for “internal investigation and crisis communication,” while another $5 mil was dished out for “legal services.” That money went to some of the biggest, baddest and most notorious names in crisis management, including Lanny J. Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton and a practitioner of black PR magic. The New York Times described Davis as a “front man for the dark side, willing to take on some of the world’s least noble companies and causes” and noted that “Mr. Davis has built a client list that now includes coup supporters in Honduras, a dictator in Equatorial Guinea, for-profit colleges accused of exploiting students, and a company that dominates the manufacture of additives for infant formula.” The Times left this out for some reason—maybe because the paper doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it—but Davis has also done extensive work for union busters, health insurance companies, pharma drug pushers and helped promote the noble cause of austerity. Bill Clinton gave his former lawyer/crisis manager two-thumbs up, praising Davis’ ability to make sure journalists report the “right” kind of message in this dark “age of the internet and get it first before getting it right journalism.”

With a PR wizard like Lanny Davis at the controls, Penn State was virtually guaranteed to get results. And he delivered the goods.

The campaign has been so effective that it’s even won the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author and esteemed staff writer of the New Yorker magazine.

In a New Yorker article published in mid-September—at the height of the pro-Penn State media blitz—Gladwell tried to debunk the existence of a cover-up by perfectly, and comically, parroting the PR:

The pedophile is often imagined as the dishevelled old man baldly offering candy to preschoolers. But the truth is that most of the time we have no clue what we are dealing with. … Did anyone at Penn State understand what they were dealing with, either? Here was a man who built a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar, fully integrated grooming operation, outsourcing to child-care professionals the task of locating vulnerable children—all the while playing the role of lovable goofball. … Years later, at Sandusky’s criminal trial, a Penn State coach said that he saw Sandusky showering with boys all the time—and thought nothing of it. Crazy Jerry and his horseplay. Who knew what he would get up to next? … Horsing around in the shower? That was Jerry being Jerry. It did not occur to them that the goofy, horseplaying Sandusky they thought they knew was another of Sandusky’s deceptions. Those who put all their ingenuity and energy into fooling us usually succeed.

You read that right: Penn State officials thought the old man’s marathon nude shower sessions with random prepubescent boys were just a bit good ol’ “horseplay” and goofing around. For all those years, they thought all that the tickling, fondling and wrestling in the nude was just innocent fun—“just Jerry being Jerry.” How was anyone to know that Sandusky was doing something sexually inappropriate with those kids? If you or I were in their position, we’d make the same mistake, right? At least that’s Gladwell would have us believe.

How did Gladwell, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, arrive at this conclusion? You guessed it: by rolling out the exact same talking points being pushed by Penn State’s multi-million dollar management/legal defense team. He smeared the testimony of Mike McQueary as unreliable, left out incriminating evidence and painted Penn State officials as poor victims of a master manipulator who were just as shocked to learn about Sandusky’s multi-year molestation spree as everyone else. Gladwell hammered in that last point over and over, reassuring his readers that the only reason Jerry Sandusky was able to go on molesting kids for so long without anyone getting wise was because Sandusky was a master in the art of deception. I guess you could say Gladwell’s a proponent of the “Lone Molester” theory.

Yep, I guess this is what passes for “thought leader” journalism at the New Yorker these days…

Others also questioned Gladwell’s lack of cynicism. But no one could explain why such a scrupulous reporter had dropped the ball so clumsily. Perhaps, like those at Penn State they don’t want to consider the worst? After all, Gladwell has a long and sordid history of shilling for the most toxic and destructive corporate interests known to man. As the SHAME Project exposé revealed last summer, Malcolm Gladwell has used the pages of the The New Yorker and other prominent media outlets to run cover for Big Tobacco, PHARMA, health insurance companies and Wall Street fraudsters—all while earning serous cash as one of the most sought-after corporate speakers in America from the same companies and industries that he covers as a journalist.

I literally wrote the book on Gladwell’s corrupt journalism, and trust me: it’s one hell of a racket, bringing Gladwell upwards of $1 million a year from a diverse set of clients, including Philip Morris, Lehman Brothers, Microsoft, Bank of America, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the health insurance mega-lobby AHIP. Philip Morris liked Gladwell’s work so much that it named him in a confidential document as one of the tobacco industry’s top covert media assets, right along with Bush press secretary/Fox News anchor Tony Snow, Grover Norquist and Milton Friedman. I kid you not. And Gladwell’s been caught in the act a few times before. In 2004, he published a naked propaganda piece in the New Yorker defending the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. A minor scandal ensued, finally forcing Gladwell to publicly admit that he had taken money from the pharmaceutical industry: “Have I given paid speeches to companies or industries mentioned or affected by that article? Yes I have.”

Could it be that he’s doing it again here? Surely not! And when NSFWCORP reached him for comment he was quick to assure us that he’d never been in contact with anyone at Lanny Davis’ firm.

And why doubt him?

Years later, at Gladwell’s journalistic trial, a New Yorker editor said that he saw Gladwell defending the indefensible all the time—and thought nothing of it. Crazy Malcolm and his shilling. Who knew what he would get up to next? That was Malcolm being Malcolm. It did not occur to them that the goofy, gullible Gladwell they thought they knew was another of Gladwell’s deceptions.

Those who put all their ingenuity and energy into fooling us usually succeed.