Speaking publicly for the first time since the death of her husband, Sue Paterno sat down with Katie Couric for an interview that aired on Monday. Joined for portions of the interview by her children, Sue expressed horror at the crimes of Jerry Sandusky while remaining steadfast in her defense of her late husband, Joe Paterno.
"What you saw is what you got," Sue answered when asked by Couric how she would like Joe to be remembered. "He was real. Everything that he believed in and taught, that's who he was."
The "Katie" interview aired shortly after the Paterno family released its rebuttal to the July 2012 report issued by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that indicated Joe "was an integral part of this active decision to conceal" the crimes of Sandusky. The Freeh report was commissioned by Penn State and was followed quickly by severe NCAA sanctions.
"I can tell you unequivocally now -- based on our report, based on our independent experts -- that Joe Paterno never hindered any investigation," Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers told Couric.
Joe Paterno was one the most revered and accomplished college football figures of all time before the sexual abuse committed by his longtime assistant coach was uncovered in November 2011. Paterno was fired by Penn State not long after Sandusky was charged. Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator and one-time heir apparent to Paterno, was found guilty last June of 45 criminal counts related to the assault of 10 boys over a 15-year period.
An emotional Sue recalled the firing of her husband by Penn State just weeks before his death in January of 2012, as well as her revulsion upon learning of Sandusky's crimes.
"If the experts don't know, how would we," Paterno told Couric when asked if she and her husband had any inkling of Sandusky's crimes before they were revealed by authorities.
Although Mary Kay Paterno, a daughter of Joe and Sue, insisted that this appearance had "very little" to do with refurbishing Joe's legacy, two of his former players spoke more stridently.
"I was really upset when all of this happened. And the guilty party here is Sandusky, it's not Joe Paterno. And Joe Paterno didn't conspire to do anything," said former Penn State football and longtime New York Jets player Greg Buttle, who appeared along with another PSU player, Aaron Maybin. "The conspiracy to me was perpetrated by the cabal of trustees and others that felt they needed a convenient way out to relieve Penn State of what had happened. And I just wanted to say that Joe, the Joe I know, the Joe that my fellow players knew, the Joe that we former players knew, if he ever knew that Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile, there would have been an issue with it. He would have taken care of it. And that's why I'm here."
Taking issue with the conclusions drawn by Freeh, the Paterno family commissioned a second report. Sollers assembled a group of experts, including former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, to review the Freeh report. This document criticized the Freeh report as a "rush to injustice."
“If he knew in 2001 what he then learned in 2011, yes. He would have done more,” Sue said during her "Katie" appearance, in a direct rebuttal to those who believe her husband did not to enough to stop Sandusky and perhaps even obscured his crimes. “Anyone would.”
In the aftermath of the scathing Freeh report, the NCAA levied heavy sanctions against the university's athletic department and football program. Penn State football, and Paterno, was stripped of 111 wins, dropping him from the top spot in the all-time rankings.
"We conclude that the observations as to Joe Paterno in the Freeh report are unfounded, and have done a disservice not only to Joe Paterno and the university community," said the report commissioned by the family, "but also to the victims of Jerry Sandusky and the critical mission of educating the public on the dangers of child sexual victimization."
In a statement released on Sunday, Freeh stood by his findings:
"I stand by our conclusion that four of the most powerful people at Penn State failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."
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