Donald Trump invokes memory of child molester enabler Joe Paterno

Speaking at a rally in Pittsburgh yesterday, Donald Trump gave a rather odd regional shoutout.

“I know a lot about Pennsylvania, and it’s great. How’s Joe Paterno?” he asked the crowd, reading from a piece of paper, “We gonna bring that back? Right? How about that whole deal?”

Joe Paterno, Penn State’s storied football coach who led the team to two national championships and five undefeated seasons, has been dead for four years.

In context, Trump’s call to “bring that back” appears to be referring to the statue of Joe Paterno that used to stand outside of Penn State’s football stadium — not the man himself. That statue was removed after it was revealed that Paterno had helped cover up a sexual abuse scandal involving one of his assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky.

In addition to failing to notify the police when he was first informed that Sandusky was molesting young boys in the Penn State locker rooms, subsequent reports showed that Paterno and other members in the Penn State athletic department had worked to shield Sandusky’s actions from the public.

They also continued to grant Sandusky access to the school’s athletic facilities — where he continued to molest children — following his retirement from the football program in 1999.

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

This makes calling for the reinstallation of the statue arguably odder and more problematic than if Trump thought that Paterno was either still alive or in need of literal resurrection. It puts Trump squarely in the camp which argues that child molestation, or the enabling thereof, is eventually forgivable, provided that the people involved in the crime win enough football games. To care that Paterno didn’t notify the police about his assistant coach — who was convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15 year period — is, to these fans and apparently to Trump, a politically correct buzzkill.

This isn’t the first time that Trump has played to football fans’ baser instincts. Earlier this year, he complained that the NFL had gone “soft” for instituting rule changes aimed at slightly reducing the amount of brain damage that skill position players are likely to accrue over the course of their careers. In both cases, however, Trump is harkening back to “the good ol’ days” of American culture — a time when men were men, football players played football and sexual abuse victims knew their place.

It’s a particularly Trumpian form of pandering, and last night’s crowd ate it up.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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16 Responses to “Donald Trump invokes memory of child molester enabler Joe Paterno”

  1. Dorothy Davidson says:

    Esp. Bill Clinton!

  2. Dorothy Davidson says:

    If Trump wants to protect Bill Clinton and his pedophile friends ..thats his business!

  3. janetsc says:

    He didn’t leave a message with a secretary. As per PA mandated reporter procedures, he reported the abuse to three of his superiors. He called a meeting, sat with all of them and repeated Mccrearys report. One of those superiors was the head of penn state police. Campus police are municipal police departments and have jurisdiction over cases that take place on school grounds. Yes they do pursue criminal charges.

    I think Paterno got a bum rap because for many people, his face was the face of Penn State. You or I couldn’t pick spanier , Schulze or Curley out of a crowd, but everyone knew paternos face, so they assumed he was top dog.

    You and I clearly disagree on this. I do not expect private citizens to monitor the police and follow up on criminal investigations. Some have said Paterno should have done his own investigation. If the attorney general, tom Corbett, with subpoena power and the PA state trooper investigative unit at his disposal couldn’t make a case, how is a football coach supposed to do better?

    Sandusky is a monster, but he was a monster who covered his tracks. His victims mothers didn’t know what was going on. The teachers and administrators of the local high schools that allowed Sandusky to take his Second Mile kids out of school didn’t know what was going on, and this was after Sanduskys having been investigated for similar charges in the late 90s. In the 90s, Sandusky left penn state to focus on Second Mile full time. We know now that meant full time child molesting.

    Punishing the football program made as much sense as bombing Iraq for 9/11. The Sandusky case as it involved Paterno was settled until LA state , rife with its own corruption charges made a fuss, apparently because the best defense is a good offense.

    Paterno was the only one who did the right thing, and he tearfully said he later wished he had done more. He committed the sin of trusting his superiors to do the right thing, as he did.

  4. MoonDragon says:

    The question, as I have tried to explain, was why didn’t Paterno check to see if Shultz et. al. had followed through when nothing happened after he made his report? That’s it. If I report to a department head, by leaving a message with his secretary, that drug deals are going down in a grad student’s office, if the deals are still going down and get worse, it’s not unreasonable for people to want to know, since I was aware of the problem, why I didn’t make sure the secretary passed the word on up the chain. Schultz wasn’t the end of the chain. There’s no way for him, through the university to pursue actual criminal charges. Paterno was under no obligation as a private person to do more, but as a campus leader, many expected him to do better than the minimum, since doing the minimum was less than he expected of his players. He didn’t do anything wrong or illegal, he just disappointed people because he didn’t live up to standards to which he held others.

  5. janetsc says:

    you recontacted the police to report the perp’s confrontation. and workplace infractions are not anywhere near the same as asking for details in an ongoing criminal investigation. PA has since modified mandated reporter procedure and now CYS notifies the reporter by mail if the report was founded or unfounded. Paterno reported this crime to the chief of police at PSU. Police do not routinely take the time to keep citizens apprised of the progress of the investigation. They have enough to do

  6. MoonDragon says:

    I reported a crime, and when the perp confronted me over the report I recontacted the police to check on the disposition of the report. I have reported internal infractions at my work place and checked on the progress of the follow through (as many believe Paterno should have done with the university administration.)

  7. Junetsanchez2 says:

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  8. janetsc says:

    Lots of people make that assertion. I think it’s an easy out. No one could pick out Spanier , Curley or Schulze out of a lineup, but Paternos well known face made it easy for lazy reporters to hang a cover up on him.
    Again, if you have ever reported a crime, did you take it upon yourself to follow up on the investigators?
    Paterno didn’t give Sandusky keys to the facilities, Spanier did. Paterno was the only one who did the right thing by reporting the crime to the top cop at Penn State.

  9. MoonDragon says:

    The “follow up” comment refers more to internal actions here at Dear Old State, given Paterno’s influence and position of importance. Sandusky was retired at the time of the reported incident, and as Paterno ran a tight ship with respect to any facilities associated with the football program, some found it curious that he didn’t take a greater interest in the follow through of the other members of the University administration in this matter. I did not mean to imply that he had any legal obligation to do so or that his failure to do so was in any way responsible for aiding in a cover up of the incident. Also, in such a case, many would think his stewardship of the program’s image would make him more involved in seeing it was not sacrificed by efforts to protect the image of the University as a whole. Joe was more than just another employee. By all accounts he was in some ways above and beyond the administration.

  10. janetsc says:

    Paterno was not the child molester nor a defender of child molesters. A former assistant coach who had not been employed by Penn State since 1998 was the molester. Paterno reported Sanduskys crime to the proper authorities. An octogenarian football coach did not launch his own investigation. The PA attorney general with subpoena power Znd the state police at his disposal was unable to make a case. And you think a football coach would have had better luck?

  11. janetsc says:

    I too am a mandated reporter of child abuse inPA. Paterno followed procedure and reported the abuse to his superiors, one of whom, Schulze is the head of campus police. Penn State has a larger municipal police force than several local communities combined. It has a SWAT as well as a detective division. These are not mall cops on steroids. So Paterno reported the crime to the top cop at Penn State. What else was he to have done?

    Anyone who suggests Paterno was at fault for not “following up” has clearly never reported a crime. Police do not routinely share details of ongoing investigations and frankly, if I reported a robbery or rape I wouldn’t expect police to take time out of their busy day to keep me apprised as to progress of the investigation. Do you expect private citizens do run shadow investigations? What follow up would you do if you reported a crime?

    John Green should be ashamed for using the term child abuse enabler when he quite clearly has no knowledge of PA mandated reporter requirements nor of the law enforcement structure at Penn State.

  12. Marcyprippy says:

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  13. MoonDragon says:

    While I’m not a worshipper at the shrine of St. Joe, the man acted in accordance with the required chain of reporting. He just didn’t do the follow up. Frankly, the man was so tunnel-visioned and focused on the football team that unless Sandusky actually enlisted him to hold the kid down, he wouldn’t have noticed. Just as Trump is so concerned with brands (Paterno) he doesn’t even understand that the content isn’t applicable (in Pitt territory where he should be invoking Johnny Majors), calling on Paterno’s memory isn’t invoking a pedophile or pedo-apologist, it’s just invoking another clueless icon. Joe knew football, but precious little beyond the gridiron.

  14. UncleBucky says:

    Paterno? That’s over and done with.

    Trump is nuts. Nuts, nuts, nuts.

  15. 2karmanot says:

    Trumpy is very sensitive about brain damage.

  16. BeccaM says:

    Donald J Trump: Proud defender of defenders of child-molesters everywhere.

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