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Root: What the Joe Paterno Scandal Proves About America

What the Joe Paterno Scandal Proves About America

By Wayne Allyn Root, Former Libertarian Vice Presidential Nominee
As I write this commentary, Joe Paterno has been fired as Penn State football coach — effective immediately. Thousands of Penn State college students are in the streets, angry, sad, disillusioned, emotionally wrecked, overturning cars, and chanting Joe Paterno’s name. The riot police are in place to prevent the situation from getting out of hand. Those aren’t hoodlums with no hope and no future. They are educated, middle class, salt-of-the-earth Pennsylvania college kids attending a well-respected university. What is wrong with this picture? What does it say about America?

Let’s start with the obvious. Why aren’t those educated college kids out protesting on behalf of the little boys who were allegedly sexually assaulted by a longtime Penn State assistant coach? Has America so lost its compass? These kids are in love with a coach because…he’s a celebrity. Because he wins football games. Because he wins football games all else is forgiven. We are lucky this isn’t Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton involved in child rape. We’d almost certainly witness mobs burn Los Angeles to the ground to show their support for their favorite celeb-turned-child-rapist. A sad commentary on all that is wrong with America.

Then there’s the actual conduct of Coach Joe Paterno. Here is a good moral man who has spent a lifetime molding the lives of young men at Penn State. Yet back in 2002 he heard from a graduate assistant that his longtime assistant coach was having sex in the shower with a 10 year old boy. Paterno reported the incident to his superiors, then never mentioned it again. How strange is that? He never thought to protect the 10-year old boy? He obviously never cared that the boy’s life (or certainly mental state) might be in danger. He obviously never thought to find out who the boy was and talk to him. He ever even considered that stopping this sexual deviant might possibly save other boys. He never thought to confront his friend of 30 years and ask him what happened. He never bothered to follow up with his superiors to ask about the young boys. Obviously he was busy with football.

How could this happen in my America? Is winning football games now more important than a 10-year old boy’s safety? Protecting a respected institution is obviously more important than stopping a child rapist. Bureaucracy and loyalty obviously dull the senses of important people. Educated responsible administrators with 6-figure and 7-figure salaries made the same decision to cover-up a heinous crime as priests and bishops and cardinals for the Catholic Church. In each case, none of these grown men stopped to consider “what if that was my little boy in the shower with that 60-year-old pervert?” The decision was made by respected people in authority at both respected institutions that the reputation of their employer was worth more than a little boy’s innocence. No one stopped to consider that these abused boys might someday commit suicide from the shame of what was done to them. It is hard to believe the lack of judgement. It is even harder to believe the world really is that selfish, thoughtless, and uncaring.

Keep in mind a key fact as we all judge Joe Paterno. The coach/pervert/rapist in question had an office in the Penn State football complex since his retirement in 1999. This incident took place in 2002. So Coach Paterno was told a man with an office in his building was using the football locker room to sexually assault little boys. And for the next 10 years he let the rapist/pervert keep his office in the building. For the next 10 years he let the man continue to conduct business in his office down the hall. He walked by his friend’s office and never thought to confront him about the incident. He walked by that office and never thought about the little boys. He walked by that office and never once thought to follow up with his superiors. All hard to even conceive.

And the students of Penn State think this is a role model? They want to waste their precious time protesting, chanting Paterno’s name, rioting, and destroying property in the name of a man who never thought to protect little boys being abused, molested and raped in his football facility. There is something very wrong, something very rancid in America in 2011.

By the way, would anyone be protesting, crying, chanting, or rioting in the name of a losing football coach? So this is clearly about winning. If you win enough football games, anything goes in America today. Even the cover-up of child rape is acceptable to those students at Penn State. These student protestors are educated, salt-of-the-earth, middle class Pennsylvania kids with the values of a prison chain gang. They learned their values and morals where exactly- MTV? Beavis & Butthead? The Kardashians? Watching Internet porn? It’s all frightening and a sign of the rapid decline of America.

Lastly, I’m betting none of those kids either knows of, or cares, about the important news of the day — Italy joining Greece on the verge of complete economic Armageddon. Or how about the impending collapse of the entire European Union due to perhaps the worst financial crisis in world history. All of which caused an almost 400 point drop on Wall Street. Some believe we now face the very real prospect of a Great Depression II, food lines, tent cities, and a crisis no college student alive today has ever imagined. Their future upon graduation from Penn State may have just taken a turn from dismal to bleak.

But hey…why should that matter. Those students have more important things to worry about: Penn State has a football game against Nebraska on Saturday. This is the bread-and-circus generation that expects government to take care of them from cradle to grave. Now we all understand why.

Wayne Allyn Root is a former Libertarian vice presidential nominee. He now serves as Chairman of the Libertarian National Congressional Committee. He is the best-selling author of “The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gold & Tax Cuts.” His web


  1. Melty Melty November 13, 2011

    …some perv or other? what? cuz he was some ball coach or other?
    What did any ball game I didn’t play in ever do for me?

  2. Root's Teeth Are Awesome Root's Teeth Are Awesome November 13, 2011

    if much of one’s professional life has been dedicated to stuff like letting people know how the Seahawks do against the spread in road games coming off a bye week, then there is at least a little irony in complaining about younger and less mature folks paying more attention to their football team than the Greek debt crisis.

    This contradiction can be explained in Root’s own words. From Root’s New York Times interview:

    “I asked [Root] if he ever felt guilty about making his money by gambling. He looked up at me as if I had used a word in a language he didn’t understand and said: ‘Guilt? I don’t have any guilt. I think zero about why things are. I just accept what they are and find a way to take advantage of them.’

    That’s vintage Root.

    Root will celebrate or attack America’s sports obsessed culture, depending on what’s beneficial to him at the moment.

  3. wolfefan wolfefan November 13, 2011

    On Friday night thousands of Penn State students held a prayer vigil for the victims of the sexual abuse. What does that “prove about America”? It all depends on what you choose to extrapolate from.

    I genuinely say this with all due respect, but if much of one’s professional life has been dedicated to stuff like letting people know how the Seahawks do against the spread in road games coming off a bye week, then there is at least a little irony in complaining about younger and less mature folks paying more attention to their football team than the Greek debt crisis.

  4. NewFederalist NewFederalist November 12, 2011

    #12… I have been inundated with information about this case since the indictment of Jerry Sandusky. I most certainly do not advocate what he has been accused of doing. I just find it interesting that a slimeball like WAR has all the answers before this case is even brought to open court. Root is a cheesy opportuinist who grabs headlines any way he can. If he is the “face” of the LP then they will lose a voter who has voted for them since 1976. As I said in my original post, there are no winners here and cashing in on this tragedy is just beyond the pale.

  5. Daniel Wiener Daniel Wiener November 12, 2011

    Every once in a great while I check to see if there’s anything interesting being posted on IPR. Usually I find garbage such as some of the comments on this thread: Posters who are totally obsessed with their hatred of Wayne Root, to the point that they excoriate him merely because he comments on a hot news topics, and may or may not be earning money from his punditry.

    There were real victims of real crimes at Penn State. Shouldn’t that be of greater concern?

    While I sometimes disagree with Tom Knapp on particular issues, his patience and sanity in dealing with kook commentators is remarkable. I have considerably less interest than he has in doing that, so the frequency of my visits to IPR will likely continue to decline.

  6. Eric Sundwall Eric Sundwall November 12, 2011

    It should be noted that close to ten thousand people attended a candle light vigil for the victims at University Park on the campus. A one minute moment of silence was observed at 10 PM. Perhaps the ‘rapid decline’ was met by mindful recognition after all.

  7. Tom Blanton Tom Blanton November 11, 2011

    That’s what someone in Joe Paterno’s position owes to himself, his team, his school, and at least nine little boys who appear to have been horrifically abused.

    Well, yeah. Paterno engaged in a cover-up, the shit hit the fan, and he got fired. Some idiots were got upset that he was fired. I suppose the old bastard could be charged with being an accessory after the fact or with obstructing justice, but I doubt if he would be convicted. There’s no denying though that his “crimes” were not worse than the actual crimes that took place.

    But America is all about cover-ups. The Catholic Church cover-up of Priests molesting boys. The cover-up of financial crimes by government regulators. The cover-up of war crimes by a lap dog media.

    How many little kids lost their limbs as Bush did a comedy routine pretending to look for WMD in the Oval Office? The media was mostly amused.

    While Goldman Sachs was perpetrating fraud against people whom it owed a fiduciary responsibility, where was the SEC? The media was silent.

    How many kids have lost limbs in the wilderness of Pakistan to Obama’s drones because their neighbor MIGHT be linked to some radical who is POSSIBLY planning another 9/11? Where is the “loyal opposition” and the media? I’m unaware that the network newsreaders have even commented on the fact that Obama believes he has the power to engage in extra-judicial executions of any American citizen he chooses with no accountability. Cover-up?

    I could go on and on. At every level of government and in every social institution there are cover-ups, big and small, over trivial matters and matters of great importance.

    The “crimes” of Paterno are fairly trivial in the wider scope of things and it just serves as a warning to those who place their heroes on pedestals that once there, the heroes don’t want to jeopardize their position as demonstrated by Paterno’s silence.

    Now, when will the people who cover-up for those who have literally destroyed millions of lives be held to account?

  8. Root's Teeth Are Awesome Root's Teeth Are Awesome November 11, 2011

    @12, it’s not either/or.

    One can condemn Sudusky for his crimes (which is a given), but also condemn Root for trying to exploit Sudusky’s crimes in order to build his own fame.

  9. Here's a radical idea Here's a radical idea November 11, 2011

    So do # 2 and # 4 condone what happened ? You are so quick to judge Wayne Root, but no comment about the young boys. Hmmnm, gosh I didn’t know there were this many disturbed people out there.

  10. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp November 11, 2011

    TB @8,

    I suspect that in any “who’s the man you most look up to as a leader” poll of Penn State football players, students or alumni, Paterno would outdo the Pope, Ronald Reagan and Douglas McArthur combined.

    In a very real sense, the Penn State campus, the Penn State athletic program, and beyond any shadow of a doubt the Penn State football locker room were Property of Joe Paterno for all intents and purposes, and were for most of his 62-year career.

    So no, it wasn’t enough for Paterno to hear about what Sandusky was allegedly up to, pass the word “up,” and then just go back to whatever else he happened to be doing.

    Maybe passing the word “up” and giving the “up” people a couple of days to act, sure — but if they didn’t, the bare minimum was “you’re on administrative leave until we figure out what was going on here; you’re fired if it’s what it looks like; and yes, the police will be involved in that investigation.”

    That’s what someone in Joe Paterno’s position owes to himself, his team, his school, and at least nine little boys who appear to have been horrifically abused.

  11. ATBAFT ATBAFT November 11, 2011

    The 28 yr old witnessing the rape should have intervened immediately. Then called 911 and held Sandusky until the cops arrived. Now there are stories that McQueary (the witness) continued to participate in charitable events that Sandusky coached! There is also circumstantial evidence that Paterno knew about the 1998 incident and that was a factor in Sandusky not being named his successor. So, if true, 2002 isn’t the first time Paterno was confronted with a claim that Sandusky was a perv. All very disappointing when those you admire are found to have feet of clay. Like finding out that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner.

  12. Tom Blanton Tom Blanton November 11, 2011

    On the other hand, where are the parents of the vicitms? Where are their lawyers? How many lawsuits have been filled against Penn State by the victims? Would everyone be happy if the Pals of Paterno mobs had been lynch mobs gunning for Paterno instead?

    Perhaps the problem in America is elevating certain people to deity status and the resulting hero worship.

    Whether it is sports figures, entertainers, religious leaders, politicians, cops, soldiers, or idiot commentators, self-proclaimed “good Americans” often ignore or excuse atrocious behavior and crimes perpetrated by their heroes.

  13. Tom Blanton Tom Blanton November 11, 2011

    Who does this Paterno guy think he is?

    It’s not like he’s a Holy Pope receiving divine guidance to ignore child molestations carried out by his colleagues.

    In addition to merely reporting an incident he was told about, but did not witness, Paterno should have conducted his own investigation, concluding with a trial. If Paterno found the perp guilty, he could have rigged up an electric chair in his garage and executed him.

    That’s what good Americans would have done, right?

  14. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp November 11, 2011

    “I think Root’s only written one political commentary book. Most of his others are about gambling, no?”

    I guess you’re right. Per Amazon, he’s written three books on gambling, one self-help book for entrepreneurs, and two commentary books (Millionaire Republican and The Conscience of a Libertarian).

    I’ve only read the two commentary books and the self-help book myself, so I hadn’t really thought of him as a gambling author a la Gollehon.

    And hey, a significant fraction of my own book output is gambling-related!

  15. Root's Teeth Are Awesome Root's Teeth Are Awesome November 11, 2011

    I think Root’s only written one political commentary book. Most of his others are about gambling, no?

    Root has posted that he makes no money from his media appearances. I think that goes for his columns as well.

    I recall Root posting that he does his media appearances because he “believes in libertarianism, yada, yada,” and that he does it “on the side” to the many businesses he runs.

    I think Root would love to be a highly paid pundit, but I think his official position is that his punditry is an act of patriotism, in that he’s trying to save America from Obama and Marxism, etc.

    If that’s not his position, if he’s well paid for his media appearances and columns, he can post in and say.

  16. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp November 11, 2011

    “Also, since Root claims he makes no money on his commenting”

    I’ve never heard him make that claim. Where did I miss it?

    Root has written several books that certainly constitute commentary, and that I hope he made money on.

  17. Root's Teeth Are Awesome Root's Teeth Are Awesome November 11, 2011

    Root is a working member of the commentariat. The commentariat comments. That’s what we do.

    Yes, commentators comment. And rapists rape. Bloggers blog. Firefighters fight fires.

    To state the obvious is not to justify it.

    Whether a justification is required is another question — I don’t think one needs to justify being a commentator, but one’s comments are certainly open to criticism.

    Is Root being a shameless sleaze, trying to exploit this child molestation scandal to increase own his fame? I think so.

    Also, since Root claims he makes no money on his commenting, is it right to call him a “working” member of the commentariat.

    I’m sure he aspires to be a working (well paid) member of the commentariat, but at this point still falls far short of Ann Coulter.

  18. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp November 10, 2011


    Regardless of what you think about his reasons, Root is a working member of the commentariat.

    The commentariat comments.

    That’s what we do.

    Including about Joe-Pa.

    And agree or disagree about where he went with it, he got the basic issue right. It’s sad that a 62-year career had just ended in disgrace, and that disgrace was earned. Even Joe Paterno doesn’t get a free pass for allowing something like that to go on.

  19. NewFederalist NewFederalist November 10, 2011

    Root has proven that there is no depths he will not sink to just for publicity. What a fucking creep! I live in Pennsylvania (I am not a PSU alum) and there are no winners in this story. Root is just a shameless huckster cashing in on a tragedy. Wayne, you are just scum! I have voted Libertarian every election I could since 1976 but I will never vote for you. You are a low life piece of shit!

  20. Bruce Cohen Bruce Cohen Post author | November 10, 2011

    Clearly this is not about whether Mister Paterno is ‘guilty’ of a legal crime. It’s about whether he is of sufficient moral character to have a position of power and authority at a Public Institution.

    Apple would surely fire Joe if it was the same type of situation. And that’s just the right thing to do.

    Joe was part of a coverup of one of the worst kind of crimes there are.

    Ignoring his friend molesting children he was in charge of.

    It’s bad enough to initiate force.
    It’s even worse if it’s sexual force.
    It’s even worse if you are an adult, taking advantage of children.

    But the worst thing of all is to IGNORE this crime and act like nothing was going on.

    Mister Paterno has no excuse and can’t seek mental help for a problem, or go to rehab, no way, sorry, not going to work.

    He’s the ‘grownup’ and was responsible for the safety of all those around him.

    Firing him was far less than he deserved.

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