Friday, April 6

HBO's Paterno is Docufiction

According to multiple sources who have viewed HBO's Paterno, the movie goes overboard by introducing pure fiction to reinforce the false narrative of a Penn State cover-up.


Ray Blehar

April 6, 2018; 10:02 PM EDT, Updated April 7, 8:07 AM

Those who have viewed HBO's Paterno movie, including a review by CNN, corroborate that it uses purely fictional situations to strengthen the (now discredited) narrative of a cover-up of Sandusky's crimes by Penn State University (PSU) officials.  The movie is docufiction...from start to finish.

After headliner Al Pacino, the second credit of the movie goes to Riley Keough, who portrays Sara Ganim as an investigative reporter (which Ganim isn't and never was).   Ganim also receives full screen credit as consultant on the film.

Riley Keough plays former local reporter, Sara Ganim

As consultant, she does exactly as she did as a local crime and courts reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot News.  She told director Barry Levinson the same story that she and her editors concocted from information provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Attorney General (OAG).  

If you believed this movie was going to be "down the middle and let it up for the viewer to decide", think again.   The story-line is Joe knew and he blew it off because football was more important than the safety and welfare of children (including his own grand children).  

Given the limited knowledge and evidence of what really happened in 2001 and beyond, Levinson builds fictional situations based on the caricatures of Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, and Paterno and their relationships as described in the Freeh Report and news accounts.

Here are some scenes and situations that are not corroborated by any known evidence:

1. Sandusky is shown hob-nobbing with Spanier and other guests in the President's box at Beaver Stadium.

2.  Curley, Schultz and Spanier are shown in Paterno's coaching box above the press box in Beaver Stadium giving him a heads up on the impending crisis.

3.  An attractive female African America reporter approaches Curley, Schultz, and Spanier in a corridor at Beaver Stadium to ask them questions.  Spanier is depicted dropping "f-bombs."

4. Scott and Jay Paterno are at their parent's home on November 5, 2011, and when they find out Spanier is at the door, they make disparaging remarks about him.   FACT: Scott and Jay weren't there.

5.  In the scene at the Paterno home, Spanier reads a truncated version of the statement he will later give that discusses protecting children and that the charges against Curley and Schultz are "groundless."  Paterno pushes back on Spanier defending Curley and Schultz as if he knew they were guilty.

6. Tim Curley is shown making a phone call to Schultz in March 2001, urging him to report the shower incident.

7.  Schultz's administrative assistant. Kimberly Belcher, is shown making her way through a crowd of television trucks as she brings the so-called "secret file" to his home on the Monday after the scandal broke.  FACT:  She brought the file to him later in the week with no television trucks present.

8.  The film confuses the portrayal of Belcher and depicts her physical appearance to that of Joan Coble.

9.  Schultz is often shown wearing a towel around his neck as if coming from workouts.  He never was attired that way in any meetings he had with Spanier and Curley.  He is also shown drinking and using profanity.  Also, Schultz's character wears a mustache that resembles Adolf Hitler's, while Schultz wore a full mustache (when he wore won).  As you might have guessed. Schultz is made out as the most evil of the men.

10.  Paterno, who had an occasional cough prior to the November 2011 charges, is shown as completely healthy up until the end of the movie. 

11.  Paterno is undergoing a cancer treatment, he has two flashbacks.  In the first, he sees Sandusky with an evil grin on his face and his arm around a boy on an elevator at a bowl game.  The door closes and it apparently goes up to Sandusky's room.   The second flashback shows him observing Sandusky in the swimming pool playing with the Paterno grandchildren -- but the legendary coach is too obsessed with football to care.  The latter is an embellishment of a story Sue Paterno told to demonstrate that they had no inkling that Sandusky was a pedophile.

12.  CNN's review mentions the fictional scene in which Paterno isn't concerned with the impending Sandusky investigation and utters "I got Nebraska a week from today."  It also uses an obvious fictional flashback of PSU officials meeting about potential exposure of "The business of the shower."

13.  It seems only fitting that the final scene of the docufiction is of Ganim in her newsroom answering a phone call from a 1976 accuser who alleged he informed Paterno of the incident.   That story, and another by a 1971 accuser, were completely debunked.

The docufiction will premiere on HBO on April 7th at 8 PM EDT.

This story was updated to change the year of the accuser from 1971 to 1976.


  1. Nice list of faked scenes. It does sound like a hack job.

    The scenes where Paterno flashes back on his life while getting an MRI scan seems like another invention by the scriptwriter.

  2. Thanks Ray. I don't plan to watch this and will rely on others who do for their feedback.

    Also, I'm wondering about something. A couple of days ago I read a great item here on the Second Mile, but now it seems to have gone missing. Can you let us know why?

    1. Jeff,
      A draft version of the story about The Second Mile was accidentally posted for a few minutes. Kind of like that computer glitch in the AG's office that allowed Ganim to see the grand jury presentment!!

      In reality, I hit "Update" instead of "Save" -- and update equals publish.

      If you liked the draft version, the final version will knock your socks off. I'll try to finish it soon.

  3. Thank you Ray and look forward to reading final version.

  4. I'm not sure that docufiction is the right term. "Paterno" has such oddball scenes, like the dream about a fully clothed Paterno jumping into a pool of smiling children, that it is hard to classify it.

    I think maybe it should be called historical fiction since many of its characters are based on actual people but with much fictional dialog and events. I'd say it's right up there with films like "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."