Joe Paterno Interview Transcript: “Yea, I Guess You'd Call It Sexual”

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John Ziegler, the Joe Paterno apologist whom even people related to Joe Paterno want nothing to do with, recently published a book that defends Joe Paterno's role in the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal. And by "recently published a book" I mean Ziegler posted some 80,000 words on his website last week, slapped a title on it, and called it a book.

Ziegler has unearthed some new information, including the transcript of an interview with a law enforcement official Paterno did in October 2011, just a few weeks before Sandusky's arrest. Ziegler frames this interview as evidence that "completely contradicts" (his emphasis) the Freeh report, which found an email that Freeh believes proves Paterno and other top Penn State officials had conspired to conceal Sandusky's behavior from investigators back in 2001. While it's true that the evidence of Paterno's exact role in any deliberate cover-up is circumstantial and relies on supposition, all this newly unearthed interview does is reiterate what's already been out there. If anything, it's more clear than ever that Paterno understood that one of his assistants had witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a child in a Penn State football building shower back in 2001, and that the patron saint of State College did the legal minimum (after waiting a day to bother to tell anyone) of informing his superiors upon hearing that news.


Here is the transcript of the interview. The questions are being asked by Anthony Sassano, an agent with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. The text is sic; everything is as it appears in Ziegler's book and presumably in the original:


The date is 10/24/11; time 12:17 p.m., interview of coach Joseph Vincent Paterno, 830 North McKee Street, State College, PA. Scott Paterno is here representing his father. Randy Feathers is also present.

SASSANO: Coach are you aware that this statement is being taped and do you give me permission to tape this statement?


SASSANO: Did Mike McQueary, some years ago, come to you, report to you an incident that he observed in the shower between Jerry Sandusky and another individual most likely a young boy.

J. PATERNO: Yes he did.

SASSANO: Okay, and can you tell me what Mike McQueary told you please.

J. PATERNO: Mike McQueary came and said he was in the shower and that Jerry Sandusky was in the shower with another person, a younger, how young I don’t know and Mike never mentioned it, that there was some inappropriate sexual activity going on. We didn’t get in to what the inappropriate action was, but it was inappropriate. And that’s how I knew about it.

SASSANO: So he did not elaborate to you what this sexual activity was, only that he witnessed some sexual activity between Sandusky and a young boy?

J. PATERNO: Well he, well he, to be frank with you it was a long time ago, but I think as I recall he said something about touching.

SASSANO: Touching?

J. PATERNO: Touching.. whatever you want to call them, privates, whatever it is.

SASSANO: Okay, could he have said there was something more? An actual sex act?

J. PATERNO: He never said that.

SASSANO: Okay. Subsequent to that conversation with Mike, you took some appropriate action, correct?

J. PATERNO: Yea, I did because I felt, again, at that time Jerry Sandusky was not working for me.

SASSANO: Correct.

J. PATERNO: Jerry had retired from the coaching staff two or three years earlier. So I didn’t feel it was my responsibility to make any kind of a decision as to what to do with him, so I called our athletic director, I told him that Mike McQueary had something that he probably ought to share with him.

SASSANO: Okay, did you tell him that over the phone or did you have a meeting in person here at your house?

J. PATERNO: No, I told him over the phone.

SASSANO: Did you have a subsequent meeting at your house?

J. PATERNO: Oh gez, I don’t know, we.. he’s been over here, he comes over here for a lot of different reasons and something may have come up during our, he may have come over about a football schedule, he may have come over about something else and in the process we may have gotten in to it, I can’t say absolutely no and I can’t tell you I remember doing it.

SASSANO: Okay, the key element is, do you remember if you told Mr. Curley whether in person or over the phone, that McQueary witnessed a sexual incident between Sandusky and a boy?

J. PATERNO: To my knowledge yes I think Tim was aware of the fact that Mike had been a.. had seen this inappropriate action.

SASSANO: Sexual action?

J. PATERNO: Well yea, I guess you’d call it sexual. I don’t .. he had a, yea.

SASSANO: Okay, so now it’s quite clear to Mike so, oh I’m sorry, to Mr. Curley. So if Mr. Curley would have told us some…

J. PATERNO: Now I can’t, I can’t tell you it was exactly clear to Mr. Curley you’d have to ask him. I can only tell that he was.. it was transmitted to him that there was inappropriate action. To what degree I didn’t, I never asked Mike. All I know was that it was basic.. it was something we would probably take, uh, probably call sexual. What Tim got out of it I have no way of knowing. But Tim was aware of the fact that we felt we had a problem.

SASSANO: And do you know what happened after that with regards to Mr. McQueary and/or Mr. Curley?


SASSANO: Did Mr. Curley get back to you at some point in time after that to advise you what actions were taken…

J. PATERNO: No, no, I didn’t, I had other things to do, we had… As I said, Jerry was not working for me.


J. PATERNO: So I felt that I had done, I’ve asked Mike to, Mike had come to me not knowing what to do. He explained what his, what his dilemma was. I said okay. I said we got to go up the ladder. I made sure Curley knew that there was a problem and then that was it. Until all of the sudden ten years later or eight years later people are asking me what happened. But prior to that you know that was…. Jerry was not part of our activities. He wasn’t, there was no need for me to go around in any way.

SASSANO: Subsequent to Mr. McQueary coming to you and you advising Mr. Curley of this inappropriate sexual action, whatever that maybe..

J. PATERNO: Mr. Curley did not come to me, I went to Mr. Curley, I got in touch..

S. PATERNO: You misheard what he said, he said Mr. McQueary came to you.


S. PATERNO: He said Mr. McQueary came to you.


S. PATERNO: You misheard him

J. PATERNO: He did not come to me.

S. PATERNO: Mike McQueary.

J. PATERNO: Ohhh, McQueary, I thought you said Curley.

S. PATERNO: Not Curley. He’s not used to hearing Mike called Mr. McQueary.

J. PATERNO: No no no. Mike McQueary. Mike McQueary saw it on a Friday, came over here and sat at the very table we’re doing this interview, alright, and was very upset. I said what’s your problem and he said I saw something yesterday, I was in the shower, I was in the locker room, Jerry Sandusky was taking a shower with a person. And he said they were doing things that, ya know, and I never got in to know hey what did he do, did he do this, did he do that, but obviously there was a sexual kind of activity. I said hey Tim we got to let the other people know because I have no responsi… I have no authority over Jerry.

SASSANO: Subsequent, to that you’re saying Mr. Curley never got back to you, correct, to advise you?

J. PATTERNO: There was no need to get back.

SASSANO: Did any police department ever get ahold of you about this?


SASSANO: Did anybody from the University, well, anybody from the University Police Department contact you?

J. PATTERNO: Well, not till ten years later.


J. PATTERNO: All of the sudden this thing was…I got a telephone call saying hey you’re going to get subpoenaed. I said about what.

SASSANO: Okay, and just so, I don’t think I asked you this, the alleged inappropriate sexual behavior that occurred, where did Mike tell you, and you’re saying in the shower or locker room, what building?

J. PATERNO: The Lasch Building where we are.

SASSANO: The Lasch, basically the complex, the football complex, basically,

J. PATERNO: The football complex.

SASSANO: Where all the brain trust, the offices are, the work-out room and stuff like that.

J. PATERNO: The weight room is and our academic support center is and all that.

SASSANO: Coach, how long have you known Mike McQueary?

J. PATERNO: Since he was a high school kid.

SASSANO: And you’ve known him for a long number of years now, correct?

J. PATERNO: I would, he played for me, played for Penn State is what I should say, he.. when he graduated from high school he came here, what year he got out of high school I can’t say..

SASSANO: Okay, but you’ve known him for quite a number of years.

J. PATERNO: Oh, yea,

ASSANO: He’s been on your staff for a long period of time.

J. PATERNO: Twelve, fifteen years probably.

SASSANO: Do you know him to be a trustworthy individual?

J. PATERNO: Absolutely.

SASSANO: If he came and told you something

J. PATERNO: Absolutely..

SASSANO: Would you automatically believe it?

J. PATERNO: Absolutely. He was very upset when I…

SASSANO: Knowing him as you know him, and dealing with stress and pressure like he does in his system, do you know him to be one that over-reacts or does he appropriately handle that and report the same thing?

J. PATERNO: Well, he’s a competitor, a fiery guy in that sense. But I can’t, in his relationship with people I don’t remember him over-reacting. Once in a while with one of his players he’ll foul up and he’ll, and I’ll have to say, you know, are you sure he’s the guy, and you know that kind of thing. But in something like that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him overreact.

SASSANO: In your appraisal of him then if he was upset about something it would be for an appropriate reason, correct?

J. PATERNO: It was legitimate. It was legitimate.

SASSANO: It was what?

J. PATERNO: He would have been legitimately upset.

SASSANO: Okay. Do you have anything you wish to add to this statement?

J. PATERNO: (laughing) I hope it’s the last one.

SASSANO: Okay, Scott Paterno, Attorney Scott Paterno, do you have anything you wish to add to this statement?


In the 2001 email evidence cited by Freeh, PSU athletic director Tim Curley said he decided to change a plan to report Sandusky to child welfare authorities "after talking it over with Joe." In the transcript above, Paterno asserts that he never followed up with Curley or with Gary Schultz, Penn State's senior vice president for business and finance. But we already knew this; Paterno had said the same thing in his infamous "rape and a man" interview with Sally Jenkins. And even though the email evidence surfaced after Paterno's death, Ziegler takes this to mean either Paterno's memory was faulty or that the follow-up conversation with Curley never took place. Yet this interview transcript provides no concrete answers one way or another.


What it does show is Paterno using the word "sexual" four times. You might remember the persistent effort on the part of a lot of Paterno dead-enders to establish that the old man knew nothing more than that that some "horseplay" had gone on in the showers—even though he'd used the words "sexual nature" in his grand jury testimony. And now here he is, talking to investigators, and saying "inappropriate sexual activity" and "Well, yea, I guess you'd call it sexual" and "it was something we would probably take, uh, probably call sexual" and "but obviously there was a sexual kind of activity."

Photo: Getty