Monday, June 26

CNN Must Also Retract 1971 Paterno Story

Sara Ganim's incredulous report about a 1971 report to Paterno by an alleged Sandusky victim fails to meet journalism standards

Ray Blehar

June 26, 2017:  10:15AM EDT, Revised 1:14 PM

Recently, CNN retracted and removed all links to a political story because the story failed to meet its editorial standards.   It needs to do the same for its May 6, 2016 story about an alleged Sandusky victim who allegedly made a 1971 report to then Penn State University (PSU) football coach, Joe Paterno.

CNN's 1971 story was authored by Sara Ganim, who received a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting about the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  As such, Ganim knew or should have known that the victim's allegations did not comport with Sandusky's modus operandi as an acquaintance offender.    

Unreliable Corroborating Source
Ganim's history as a PSU student and as a crime and courts reporter at the Centre Daily Times also adds to the lack of journalistic integrity because she knew or should have known the story's corroborating source, Bernie McCue, was known for erratic behavior, despised Joe Paterno, and was otherwise unreliable. 

Unreliable source:  Ganim used a well-known Paterno hater to corroborate the 1971 story.

To make matters worse, Ganim chose McCue's corroborating account over a Pennsylvania State Trooper who was also a friend of the alleged victim -- and did not find his friend’s story to be credible.

Although Ganim won a Pulitzer Prize for her Sandusky coverage, it was for local – not investigative – reporting.   

Evaluations conducted by found  numerous errors, half-truths, and omissions the ten stories that were submitted to the Pulitzer committee.

Her 1971 story was no different.

Wrong from the Start
An honest fact-check of the story would have found almost none of it to be true, starting with Ganim’s assertion that the alleged victim was the oldest known victim.  

“But for many of the victims, it's not ambiguous. Like for Victim A, a 60-year-old State College native and Sandusky's oldest known victim.”

Just as many local news reports on the public record revealed that Ganim consistently erred in stating that The Second Mile separated Jerry from all programs involving children after his 2009 abuse finding, a KDKA Pittsburgh report from October 2012  revealed that a then 57-year-old was abused by Sandusky over 40 years ago.  That man would be at least 60 or 61 at the time Ganim penned her story.

Allegations Do Not Fit Sandusky’s Modus Operandi
More significantly, however, is that the KDKA report confirmed Sandusky was operating as an acquaintance offender dating back to his time at the Brownson House in his hometown of Washington, Pennsylvania. The then 57-year-old man was one of three men Sandusky victimized there.  

Sandusky's acquaintance offending likely began in his teen years at the Brownson House

This story and the facts established at the Sandusky trial refuted a key point of Ganim’s story that Sandusky offended against a hitch-hiker (i.e., stranger).

All of Sandusky’s victims from the trial came as a result of Sandusky’s relationship with them through his charity.   Ganim, who covered the trial, obviously had to recognize that Victim A’s allegations did not fit Sandusky’s pattern of victimizing children he had befriended.

Next, none of Sandusky’s victims from the trial alleged that he provided them with drugs or alcohol.  Ganim's Victim A alleged that Sandusky bought him beer and gave him pot before physically assaulting him.  He was also considered a straight-arrow growing up as a teen and in college.  He wasn't known to attend fraternity parties.  In fact, Sandusky was well known as a church-going, teetotaler.  

Last but not least, no known victim or claimant – other than Victim A – alleged that Sandusky physically assaulted them before forcibly raping them.   Again, this conduct would be far outside the realm for an acquaintance/serial offender whose success relies upon gaining the trust of the victim – who will remain silent about the victimization.

Too Good To Fact Check
CNN’s story goes even further into the realm of the incredible after the alleged rape took place.

In a series of events only the extremely gullible could believe, Victim A’s injuries are noticed by his foster mother at breakfast the next morning.  After some prodding, the alleged victim tells his foster mother what happened.   Next, the foster mother and her husband – against Victim A’s wishes– inform the young man that they are going to report the incident to PSU officials, adding that nothing will happen because PSU won’t call the police.

Any reasonable person would find this story to be highly unlikely and question why the parents didn’t go directly to police to report the assault and rape of a foster child.  Moreover, a reasonable person would question the fitness of these individuals as foster parents and ask questions about them.   

But Ganim isn't a reasonable person.  She needed the story to be singularly focused on Paterno.

Not only do the guardians of the young man then follow through on their call PSU, but they insist that the 15-year old boy tell his story to none other than Joe Paterno.  

Like the questionable account of Mike McQueary, Victim A stated he did not tell Paterno he was raped, but that he made it very clear “it was a sexual attack.”

Sandusky had no history of good works in 1971
The credibility of the story completely failed when Victim A recalled Paterno’s handling of his report (emphasis added).

"I made it clear there were things done to me that I just can't believe could have been done to me and I couldn't escape. I said, 'I'm very upset and scared and I couldn't believe I let my guard down.' They listened to me. And then all hell broke loose.

"They were asking me my motive, why I would say this about someone who has done so many good things."

Jerry Sandusky did not establish The Second Mile until 1977.   He had no track record of good deeds that would have prompted such a response from Paterno.

In 1971, Jerry Sandusky had been on the PSU coaching staff for just two years and had just begun coaching linebackers, having switched from defensive line coach. At that point in his tenure, he was not an indispensable part of the staff.   Sandusky was, in fact, replacing somewhat of a coaching legend – Dan “Bad Rad” Radakovich, who left PSU for the Steelers.

There was nothing in 1971 that would have stopped Paterno from doing exactly what he did in 2001 – which was to take the report seriously and forward it to his superiors.

CNN Must Retract Story
Much like Sabrina Erdley's now infamous Rolling Stone story of an alleged a gang rape of "Jackie" by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia (UVa), the evidence shows that CNN's desire to write a sensational story led them to a fatal flaw of journalism in writing a story that was "too good to check."

The Rolling Stone story was criticized by UVa's President because it damaged serious efforts to combat sexual violence on campus.  Similarly, CNN's story did nothing to combat sexual violence against children and, as history shows neither CNN nor Ganim pursued investigating Victim A's claim of molestation by a priest.   

This story was nothing but a smear and a desperate attempt by Sara Ganim to become relevant again.

As such, the 1971 story about Paterno must also be retracted.

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  1. Ray,
    Thanks for your tireless efforts in exposing this huge injustice against PSU and Joe Paterno.

    As you point out, any reasonable person, especially a so-called investigative reporter like Sara Ganim, should have easily fact-checked before publishing falsehoods. And you go on to say that Sara Ganim is not a reasonable person which is true. But what I want to know is, what corrupt influence is causing this abandonment of reason in these "trained" journalists? And what reward is there for this abandonment of reason?

    It would seem that the loss of a journalist's integrity would not be worth accepting any monetary reward from whatever immoral slush fund that CNN has access to. And any further journalistic assignments created for Ganim's fame and notoriety would have to be negated by the glaring falseness of her intentionally fictitious Paterno stories. So the sacrifice of one's personal and professional ethics for a larger nefarious political agenda seems to be the trend nowadays.

    But what is this nefarious political agenda that is driving shallow-minded "professionals" like Sara Ganim to just give up their integrity?

    One final question to you Ray as it relates to this article: Is there any truth to the stories I have read that Louis Freeh was actually the one that had knowledge of, and supposedly "investigated" Sandusky's molestation of boys in the 70s and 80s? And if true, then this could be why there is such desperation by the Freeh camp to pin Freeh's earlier enabling of Sandusky on Paterno.

    1. Truthseeker,
      We live in an era of advocacy journalism in which sensational stories that are "too good to be checked" are routinely published and then outed as false at later dates....Exxon Valdez, WMD in Iraq, Duke Lacrosse, Hillsborough Soccer tragedy, Richard Jewell, and the list goes on and on.

      In the case of Ganim and the Patriot News, the evidence reveals that a decision was made to pursue the Penn State cover up angle -- and ignore everything else -- in order to win a Pulitzer prize. Obviously, the PSU cover-up angle would gain many more clicks than would a factual account of the difficulties of everyone involved - especially the caseworkers in 1998 -- in identifying and reporting a pillar of the community sex offender. That wouldn't have garnered a year's worth of headlines.

      Notably, Ganim and the Patriot News had little issue with blaming the PSU police and a dead DA for botching the 1998 investigation -- while letting the others slide.

      Blame the dead guy -- and others who can't defend themselves --
      was another recurring theme in reporting about this case.

      In addition, evidence also reveals that the Patriot News and Ganim were carrying water for then PA Attorney General, Tom Corbett. Even to the point of questioning the credibility of legitimate victims.

      Subsequent stories by Ganim, such as the dubiously sourced column about the literacy rates of college athletes and the UNC academic scandal -- portrayed as a sports scandal -- was simply a matter of her wanting attention.

      Let's face it, CNN believed they were getting an investigative reporter when they hired Ganim but nothing she's authored since then comes close to being legitimate investigative journalism.

      Finally, I have not heard rumors of Freeh investigating PSU back in the 1970s and 1980 -- nor can I find anything that suggests that was part of his career profile at the FBI. Freeh joined the FBI in 1975 and was assigned to the organized crime unit. In 1991, he became Assistant US Atty for the Southern District of New York, then after more legal education, became an adjunct professor at Fordham. He was confirmed as FBI director in 1993 and had a less than stellar career there.

    2. Thank you Ray for answering my questions. This "advocacy journalism" seems to be just a euphemism for propaganda. And I believe these two words, "advocacy" and "journalism" put together are an oxymoron. I was taught that when we want to advocate for some cause or ideology in a news source, then it was to be clearly labeled as an editorial/opinion piece. Advocacy used to have its place in books and the author could be as biased as he or she wanted.

      Thanks for your information on the rumors of Freeh investigating Sandusky in the 70s and 80s. As I go back over the sources in which I inferred that this occurred, it appears to be a misinterpretation of Freeh's answer to a question at his phony PSU sex scandal press conference. Someone asked him if he had examined records as far back as the 70s and 80s when doing his most recent farce investigation. His response was, "no we found nothing significant in the 70s and 80s". In various threads thereafter, some people decided that this was an admission that he and the FBI had investigated Sandusky in that earlier time period which is not what he meant. He simply meant that during his current investigation, he looked for records from that far back but found nothing. Whether that's actually the truth, coming from Freeh's mouth, is anyone's guess.

  2. I agree with all your mentioned deficiencies of Ganim's story. It's even worse than that because the article was devoid of any details of the alleged attack. Any teen male residing in the State College area at the time could have made the same vague allegations.

    Ganim should have asked basic questions such as the following:

    Where did Sandusky pick you up hitchhiking?
    What was the time of day, date, month or season?
    What kind of car did Sandusky drive?
    What PSU building did he take you to?
    How did you know it was Sandusky, who was not well known at the time?

    Too, the lack of journalistic integrity was shown by Ganim shielding the identity of others mentioned in the story. She mentioned Paterno but not the names of the foster parents, the priest who allegedly abused him, the state trooper and the former pro football player who turned on the alleged victim after he heard his story. Basic fairness should have included naming them and getting their side of the story if possible.

    Perhaps the Paterno estate v. NCAA lawsuit will reveal Bernie McQue and the 1971 accuser to be frauds. It's one thing to lie to a CNN reporter. It's a crime to lie under oath in a court case.

    1. Tim,
      Thanks for your comments.

      You are correct that any male could have made up those allegations given the publicity surrounding the case. It is obvious that this person and the alleged victim from 1976 both were basing their stories on the prevailing FALSE narrative that Paterno had turned a blind eye to the abuse of a child. Victim A and the 1976 fraud only read the headlines and likely had no idea that Paterno actually reported the incident up the chain at PSU.

      Ganim could have asked those questions you mentioned, but it was obvious she wasn't concerned with the facts or journalism standards -- otherwise, she wouldn't have used McCue as a corroborating source. Apparently, McCue's reputation was either unknown by CNN's editors or ignored for the sake of getting Ganim and their struggling network some attention.

      While it wasn't necessary for Ganim to name the third parties, an investigative journalist would have at least seeked out the NFL player for comment and referenced his corroboration, lack thereof, or lack of cooperation with the story. Again, she didn't do this because she didn't want to know if Victim A's allegations held water.

      In the case of the state trooper, he's not a corroborating source and , as I wrote, found Victim A's story to be not credible.

      Again, if this story was credible, Ganim and CNN would have followed it with an exclusive on abuse at the church camp. But alas, no such story was ever written.

      The NCAA motioned for Subpoena for documents related to the 1971 and 1976 accusers (from PSU). PSU motioned to quash the Subpoena. Shubin, who represents the 1971 accuser, motioned for a protective order, claiming his client suffers from cardiac issues. Judge Leete ordered all parties to come up with a plan to for further discovery from the 1971 and 1976 accusers.

      The 1976 accuser alleged that Sandusky stuck his finger in his anus while in the showers at a PSU sports camp. Again, the story didn't fit Sandusky's profile nor did it match reality. At PSU sports camps, the campers shower in the dormitories -- not in the PSU locker room with the coaches.

    2. Thanks Ray.

      Do have any inkling about what the summary judgement in the Paterno estate lawsuit v. NCAA is all about. Could it be a sign they are going to settle or is it just both sides agreeing on basic facts and applicable law prior to a trial?

  3. Again you have done another excellent assessment of the subject at hand.

  4. Thanks, Ray. Very informative, as always.

  5. Not even the Paterno's attempted to debunk the 1971 Hoax, which is par for the course. Things that are not rigorously challenged are assumed to be true.

    Jerry's teenage activity seems to be wild speculation. My cat could claim that JS abused her, and the SPCA would go into conniptions. Where is the physical evidence to back this up???

    Jerry and Dottie were indeed investigated multiple times from the late 1970's to about 1998 by Child Protective Services (DWP?) for adopting children and accepting foster children. People out here have their lives picked apart by investigators in order to adopt a child. But they found NOTHING in the background of Jerry and Dottie that was at all suspicious, and caseworkers found nothing. Strange....very, very strange.

    1. The Sanduskys were a dream come true for the child protection agencies because they fostered many troubled children, adopted 5 of them and started a children's charity that helped troubled children. Even when one of their foster kids tried to commit suicide, that apparently was not disqualifying. I suspect CYS, DPW and Second Mile didn't want to look too hard at them. For Second Mile officials, Jerry was their goose who laid the golden egg.

      We saw the sloppy, cursory investigation CYS and DPW did in 1998. If a new volunteer had done the same thing as Sandusky in 1998, I think he would have lost his clearance to work with children and likely would have been charged.

    2. Gregory,
      Thanks for your comment.

      Very few reporters have looked into Sandusky's early years and his activities at the Brownson House.

      Obviously, I'm not a reporter, but I was able to find some blogs on his early years and a person from from the Washington PA area contacted me about Brownson House. The latter informed me that the it was known as the "cornhole capital of Washington County."

      Interestingly, it was well known for its youth wrestling program.
      Arthur Sandusky, Jerry's father, received recognition from the state of Pennsylvania for his contributions to youth wrestling.

      It seems that Jerry used that wrestling experience as part of his grooming of victims.

  6. An open letter to Judge John Leete in the Paterno estate v. NCAA lawsuit.

    Dear Judge,

    The NCAA now states on their website that,

    "We believe that the powerful record developed during discovery overwhelmingly confirmed what the NCAA has believed all along: the NCAA acted reasonably in adopting the conclusions of an eight-month investigation by Louis Freeh.”

    Please unseal all the Paterno estate v. NCAA evidence so the NCAA can publicly prove their claim.

    Plaintiff Sue Paterno stated she would welcome a public airing of the evidence.

    There seems to be precedent for unsealing evidence in lawsuits that never made it to court. Judge Robreno unsealed a deposition by Bill Cosby after ruling that Cosby was a "public moralist." Many statements by the NCAA seem to be public moralizing as were their criticisms of a dead Paterno that prompted the Paterno estate lawsuit.

    With the lawsuit now withdrawn, there is no longer a need for a protective order to prevent contamination of the jury pool. By talking about the "powerful record developed during discovery" isn't the NCAA violating the protective order anyway?

  7. Four employees of Hoffman Homes, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for children in PA were just arrested for child endangerment for failing to report sexual abuse of a boy under their care.

    That case will get little publicity because they weren't from Penn State, and none will probably get jail time.

    It demonstrates that even with all the publicity from the Sandusky case, people who care for children still do not know their duty under the law. A Google news search on Hoffman Homes comes up with one article on the arrests, which shows that the media doesn't care about child abuse unless someone from Penn State is charged.

  8. Ray - Bernie McCue just commented over on State College News that Ganim got the year wrong in her article, and it was not 1972 that victim A told him about being raped by Sandusky. McCue's comments were "I didn't even know the victim in 1972." "She got the date wrong and I corrected it.",1473034/

    That's another reason to retract the story. McCue has not mentioned what year it actually was.