Missouri lawmaker slams Pinkel's defense of Paterno

Thursday, July 19, 2012 | 6:54 p.m. CDT; updated 6:02 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 21, 2012

COLUMBIA — A state lawmaker took Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel to task Thursday for his recent defense of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno as "a great man."

State Rep. Sara Lampe issued a statement Thursday criticizing what she called the "Mizzou coach's defense of a child rapist enabler." Lampe is a Springfield Democrat seeking her party's nomination for lieutenant governor in an eight-candidate primary election on Aug. 7.

Pinkel defended Paterno on Tuesday while speaking with reporters at the Southeastern Conference's preseason football event. He called the Penn State sex abuse scandal a "tragic situation," but said Paterno's legacy shouldn't be tarnished by the actions of Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno's former top assistant coach is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. Paterno died in January of lung cancer at age 85.

"Joe Paterno's a friend that I got to know professionally, and you can't take away the greatness of this man," Pinkel said. "He was a great man. However you analyze this, you can't erase all that this guy's done. You can't do that. Nobody can do that."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Lampe said she felt compelled to speak out after hearing Pinkel's "revered comments."

"I believe Coach Pinkel was using his public voice to do what's right, and I'm doing the same," said Lampe, a former high school teacher and principal. "I have spent 30 years standing up for children."

Lampe said she read an executive summary of the 267-page report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, which was released on July 12. In it, Freeh concluded that Paterno, ousted Penn State President Graham Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and other top officials ignored child sex abuse allegations against Sandusky more than a decade ago to avoid bad publicity.

Pinkel said last week that "I don't read a lot about it," and seemingly dismissed the investigation during his remarks Tuesday as a case of people who "are going to point fingers."

"It's so easy in hindsight to go back there and say what it is," Pinkel said. "But don't take away all this guy did, and to sit there and blame him for all this, I think is wrong."

Lampe said that by Thursday afternoon, she had already been excoriated for her strong words. Her statement lumped Pinkel in among "all but the most sycophantic of Paterno worshippers" who still defend the late Penn State coach despite the report's findings.

Freeh and his team, which included lawyers and former law enforcement officials, interviewed more than 430 people and examined more than 3.5 million emails, handwritten notes and other documents. Paterno died before he could be interviewed, but testified before a grand jury.

"Coach Pinkel's defense of the indefensible indicates that he holds the same attitude that allowed the reprehensible situation at Penn State to occur; the attitude that building a successful football program is more important than everything else, including protecting innocent children from rapists," Lampe's statement said.

Missouri football spokesman Chad Moller said that Pinkel and the university would not comment on Lampe's remarks.

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S.W. Moore July 19, 2012 | 10:14 p.m.

Rep. Sara Lampe herself called Paterno "a great coach," so clearly, by her own twisted logic -- she "supports" Paterno and, thus Sandusky, and is therefore is a pedophile supporter by association (following her logic). Lampe's faux concern for children is clearly a disingenuous, cynical attempt to smear Pinkel and use the horrific situation to gain publicity and somehow advance her own political career.

Pinkel's opinion of a situation that continues to unfold is hardly relevant. Plus, Lampe herself hadn't read Freeh's report -- and I wouldn't have expect Coach Pinkel to, and, frankly, I think too many who claim they read it seem sickeningly titillated by it all. All Pinkel did is respond to an inappropriate question about a late friend and colleague in the coaching profession. certainly did not condone the alleged actions (inactions?) or even justify it. If waxing on about what a great coach Paterno was is a crime, Brent Musberger should be in prison now for all the tripe hype he gave Paterno for decades.

Meanwhile, Lampe wasn't responding on the cuff to a loaded question, she was purposely sticking her noise in it and using the situation surrounding these horrific incidents of ongoing child abuse to propel her own pathetic political aims. That's sick.

(Report Comment)
S.W. Moore July 19, 2012 | 10:37 p.m.

Aside from Rep. Lampe's cynical opportunism....AP writer's Alan Scher Zagier's ridiculous paraphrasing and loaded personal interpretation of what Pinkel ACTUALLY said is repugnant, as well. Writes Zaiger: "He called the Penn State sex abuse scandal a "tragic situation," but said Paterno's legacy shouldn't be tarnished by the actions of Jerry Sandusky." Yet Pinkel didn't say that. He never said "should'tt be tarnished" and it's hardly comparable to saying "you can't take away what the guy accomplished."-- which doesn;t address any degree of tarnishment that might occur or even currently exist in Pinkel's opinion of Paterno. In fact, the exact words are later in the story and since they exist, it's troubling that the reporter would feel the need to interpret what Pinkel "really meant." Haven't Zaiger's previously attacks on Mizzou -- too many using "unnamed sources" and unsupported innuendo -- been enough to finally convince the AP to get rid of this faux journalist?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 20, 2012 | 6:45 a.m.

An op ed article appeared in Thursday's Wall Street Journal comparing the situation at Penn state with that at Duke when players were falsely accused of a gang rape. The players were essentially "tried" by Duke's administrative hierarchy and by the media and found guilty - on the scantiest of evidence. It was subsequently found the allegation was a complete fabrication.

The same Duke president still has his job and was recently given a new contract; one of the female administrators at Duke who lead the "lynch mob" has been given an important promotion.

While we can debate Penn State's actions of terminating their president and Paterno, at least they aren't trying to shove things under the rug. At the rate things seem to be going, I don't think they make ANY rugs big enough to shove all of NCAA Division I's problems under.

Please tell us again, what is the primary function of any university or college SUPPOSED to be?

(Report Comment)
Cecil Caulkins July 20, 2012 | 7:18 a.m.

Sara Lampe is a politician. She is running for office. This is an election year. Nothing that politicians say in election years surprises me very much. I can't wait for November so we can get past the posturing.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble July 20, 2012 | 10:52 a.m.

She's right. There's no excuse for what Pinkel said.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders July 20, 2012 | 12:00 p.m.

Coach Pinkel has revealed himself to be a small, small man, who only chooses to perceive reality through rose-colored glasses.

Personally, I was shocked that he was dumb enough to even answer any questions about Paterno, let alone reinforce his "greatness" in light of his scum-baggery.

So, now we can add "pedophile sex-ring defender" to what Pinkel considers to be a hallmark of greatness. Of course, I no longer care what this small man cares about, as he has now disgraced himself beyond recognition as a human being capable of empathy.

I can only hope that every person he encounters in this town will remind him that football is NOT more important than the rape of little boys by their heros.

I know I will.

(Report Comment)

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