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Posted by on Nov 8, 2011 in Law, Media, Politics, Religion, Society | 16 comments

(UPDATE III) Why The Penn State & Cain Scandals Are Joined At The Hip

The revelations that the storied Penn State football program harbored a serial child rapist for over 40 years and that presidential wannabe Herman Cain is almost certainly a serial groper and harasser of women would not appear to be connected, but they very much are.

By all rights, the arrest of longtime Penn State defense coordinator Jerry Sandusky on rape charges and the university’s athletic director and a vice president who oversees the university police on charges that they covered up Sandsky’s perversions should force the long overdue resignation of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who despite his pained denials certainly was well aware of an stillborn 1998 investigation into Sandusky as well as the rumors swirling around him. Meanwhile, the tidal wave of revelations about Cain, who continues to deny all in an increasingly unconvincing manner, should force him from the Republican race.

But don’t expect either man to go without some major pushing and shoving.

Nittany Lion fandom is closing ranks behind Joe Pa, the winningest coach in major college football history, while some 70 percent of GOP voters tell pollsters that the groping/harassing allegations will not diminish their support for the former pizza exec. In fact, Cain reversed field yet again yesterday after saying that he was moving on and launched a full-frontal assault on Sharon Bialek, his one public accuser on the basis that she is one of those damned women who scream harassment in the service of lapping up millions from lawsuit settlements because she has “a long and troubled financial history.”

To say that the cult of personality — whether with a football stadium or an American flag-draped stump speech audience as the background — trumps the seriousness of the charges against Penn State and Cain, and they are very serious charges — is not just a commentary on our times. It also is a commentary on how the church-goingest nation in the land, one with college athletic programs that reek of corruption and a political party that is openly hostile to women, can conveniently look the other way when its so-called morals get in the way of their heroes.

The rap on the Republican Party is especially egregious since we’re talking about grown ups and not men coaching boys on all the things they can do with a ball.

That 70 percent who sides with Cain, along with the vile Sean Hannity and other conservative pundits, over the four women (and counting) who allege that his behavior was far from gentlemanly betrays a view that women (like Bialek) who claim they were harassed are liars chasing big lawsuit awards. This despite the fact that the bar for proving harassment is extremely high.

But it comes as no surprise and is part of a large whole: The unrelenting GOP war on women in all its guises, including in its view loose women who cry rape the next day, women who intentionally get knocked up so they can get the knocker-upper to pay to raise the child, and women who want abortions not because that is a personal choice or they may be medically necessary but because they’re just too lazy or stupid to carry the child to term. Then there are the women who use federally-funded family planning services.

The bottom line here is that women are sluts unless proven otherwise while men are virtuous unless . . . well, they’re virtuous.

Meanwhile, the charge against the Penn State veep who oversaw the university police is significant. When the mother of an 11-year-old alleged in 1998 that Sandusky had raped her son after, like the other alleged victims, meeting him through a charity he ran, the university police buried the case deep in a field at the Ag School. Two janitors subsequently witnessed Sandusky performing sex acts in the locker room but did not report the incidents for fear of losing their jobs at a school where Paterno is nothing short of a God.

A final knock or three on Penn State:

Paterno, usually invoking the name of his wife Susan when there is the merest whiff of controversy, gets all prayerful in pointing out that they have devoted their lives to helping young people reach their potential and in this instance are shocked that eight of those young people could have been raped by a trusted coach, adviser and family friend.

“If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families,” Paterno said. Unconvincingly, I might add, because Paterno is on record as having made light of sexual assault in the past. This has drawn the condemnation of the National Organization for Women, which called for his resignation.

As have others as Paterno is now 84 years old and very much plays the part of someone that age as he totters up and down the sidelines or confines himself to a booth above the field, saying little and seemingly directing his team through mind melding. But despite his loyal fans, it is likely that Paterno has coached his last season and the only question is when and how his departure will be stage managed.

The rap against Penn State as an institution is even larger.

How will the university, and specifically President Graham Spanier, atone once the legal dust has settled? Paterno has been considerably more powerful than the president, which is a big reason that he has stuck around Happy Valley for so long on his own terms, while football is Penn State, not its many distinguished academic programs, some of which are being downsized amidst a statewide college funding meltdown. So while the football stadium is not about to be razed, it is going to take more than an apology to restore a sense of decency and firing Paterno — as opposed to let him go quietly in the night — would send a message. Spanier himself should then be next out the door.

Then there is Paterno’s son, Scott, who claims that Joe Pa didn’t know about the 1998 investigation even thought it is beyond obvious that he did. If the name Scott Paterno rings a bell, albeit a distant one, you might recall that in 1996 he opined that Bill Clinton was a felon who invoking the Vince Foster wet dream of the right-wing lunatic fringe, “at the very least, conspired to commit murder at least 56 times.”

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  • adelinesdad

    Wow, an impressive degree of spinning here.

    I was curious to know how the Penn State scandal was a reflection of the moral decay of the religious right. Unfortunately, after reading your post, I’m still curious. Because the religious right are more likely to be football fans? Because Paterno’s son said something nuttish once? Sorry, I’m not seeing the connection there.

    Regarding Cain, I’m not sure where you got the 70% number from, but considering he didn’t even have that amount of support before the scandal, I don’t think it means what you think it means. The polls I’ve seen indicate that while his faithful are sticking with him, for now, his image is suffering. It’s too early to tell what the affect will be of the allegations.

    In short, there are plenty of reasons to criticize the religious right without making up stuff out of thin air.

  • adelinesdad

    I did not connect Paterno or Cain to the religious right. I did not use that term. What I said was that as a nation of church goers (as opposed to a a nation of deeply devout people), we throw the lessons of the Scripture overboard in a heartbeat when it gets in the way of hero worshiping.

    The 70 percent figure has turned up in a number of polls. I am mathematically challenged, but I believe this is 70 percent of Cain’s supporters, who make up perhaps 30 percent of support at most across the Republican field.

  • CStanley

    What Adelinedad said, plus…

    Without minimizing the seriousness of sexual harassment I think it’s egregious to act as though it’s equivalent to rape of a child. The first is bad, to be sure…and if Herman Cain’s accusers are being truthful then I don’t defend him or condone those actions at all because clearly there was abuse of power in those alleged acts. But it still remains that this behavior is less severely predatory and abnormal than is pedophilia, and it does a disservice to victims of that crime to lump the two things into one category.

  • CStanley:

    I have enormous respect for you as a rare commenter who takes me on with intelligence and nuance and never resorts to attacks. Nevertheless, I think you are a bit off the mark here.

    I suppose that it is inevitable the readers would assume that I am equating child rape with harassment and, if Sharon Bialek is to be believed, a milder form of sexual assault. I am, of course, not doing so while making the larger point that the reaction to each scandal is pretty much the same and for pretty much the same reasons.

    Equivalency — or choosing to not go there — can be a terribly slippery slope. If shooting someone in the knee with malice of forethought not as bad as shooting them in the head with malice of forethought? After all, both are shootings.

  • Allen

    Can’t go past the first paragraph because it is a lie, not journalism.

    There is NO evidence that Herman Cain is a “serial groper”. there is NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE that Herman Cain committed any sexual harassment ever.

    Done by a liberal, all this accomplishes is to create animosity and destroy opportunity for partisan reconciliation, and, agreement in moderate political venue. Something I assumed this blog advocated and encouraged. Something I am learning to respect.

    These are merely your opinions Shaun. Not fact. Clarifying this would go a long way in promoting integrity among journalists. Lord knows they need it.

  • Allen:

    I will acknowledge that the Sharon Bialek dog-and-pony show yesterday gave me brief pause because that ambulance chasing Gloria Alred was at her side.

    But that does not make Bialek’s detailed allegation any less credible nor does it makes Cain’s response that she’s a financial train wreck who is in it for the money any more credible.

  • Allen


    NOTHING but accusations. There is no evidence.

    Nobody but accusation making people of which half will not even show their face and repeat their accusations in public. Nothing. No documents, nothing. Not a shred of credible evidence.

    This is the worst case of media character assassination against a presidential candidate that I have ever witnessed.

    Unless something comes out that is credible soon, somebody is going to pay the price of this crap.

  • adelinesdad


    By citing church goers and directing your criticism at Republicans, I certainly got the impression that the religious right was your target, even if you didn’t use that term. However, I won’t argue that point with you because its not my main point.

    My main point is to say that I am perplexed on how you jump from:

    (a) many Penn State fans still like Joe Paterno, and
    (b) many, but not all, people who supported Cain still support him


    our country, and in particular the Republican party, doesn’t care about morality when it comes to abuse of women and children.

    I’m not so concerned about the logical flaw in your argument as I am about what seems to me (because of the incoherence of the logic) to be a blatant attempt to capitalize on these scandals by taking a cheap shot at your political opponents.

    For one thing, the claims against both of these men are new and unproven. A lot of details haven’t come out yet and (even if you are convinced that we enough details) many people aren’t following the cases closely. Under those circumstances, it seems perfectly normal that some people have not jumped the Paterno or Cain ship yet.

    Secondly, your conclusion flies in the face of other cases where the careers of politicians, both Democrat and Republican, have ended because of sex scandals. How do you explain that?

  • adelinesdad:

    The headline says it all. Please go back and reread it because the entirety of the post flows from it.

    At the risk of sounding like I am apologizing or backtracking (I am doing neither) I am painting with a broad brush and not with a scalpel, so we are talking past each other and may well continue to do so.

    The scandals could not be more different in most respects. And as noted earlier in this thread, child rape and sexual misconduct could not be more different altho both are very serious.

    My larger point is that the reaction to both scandals by Paterno sycophants and Cain sycophants are similar for similar reasons.

    I bring up religion not to tar the religious right (they do a good enough job of that on their own) but to make the point that for a churchgoing people we are ready to discard our so-called morality and so-called beliefs in a New York minute when they collide with our heroes. It’s as simple (and indisputable) as that.

    I am not cheap shotting Cain. He is running for president not because he is serious but because he is serious about selling books. Oh, and being the center of attention. The man is an intellectual Neanderthal who, it turns out, ran Goldfather’s and the Nat’l Restaurant Association like personal fiefdoms.

    His response to the allegations has been textbook insofar as his ham-handed attempts to deny and cover-up while telling the news media how to do its job have become far more damning insofar as his ability to be presidential than sticking his hand up some woman’s dress, which I have absolutely no doubt that he did.

  • adelinesdad

    for a churchgoing people we are ready to discard our so-called morality and so-called beliefs when they collide with our heroes. It’s as simple (and indisputable) as that.

    Some of us, sure, but as a whole I’d say that generally is not the case. Again, I point to the many politicians and sports stars who have had their careers ended or tainted by scandals such as these. I’d say the hesitancy of people to jump ship in these cases has more to do with healthy skepticism and some degree of ignorance regarding the claims.

    I am not cheap shotting Cain.

    I didn’t mean to imply you were. I think you are cheap-shotting Republicans. I refer you to your paragraphs 6 through 9.

  • adelinesdad

    And of course I shouldn’t need to remind you that a very popular Democratic president abused his position in much the same way that Cain is accused of–except the details in those cases were proven to be true and more egregious, and he was the President. And he was permitted to keep his office and is still celebrated among Democrats.

    So the singling out of Republicans is what is so inexplicable to me about this post. Don’t get be wrong. I’m not a Republican and I don’t like a lot of what they stand for. But I try to call out partisanship when I see it.

  • DaGoat

    Hmm, mixed feelings here. I agree with Shaun that the two situations are similar in that they are both currently in the news and are examples of two groups circling the wagons to protect heroes accused of sexually-tinged misbehavior.

    OTOH I agree with AD that this is hardly confined to Republicans, and that similar behavior was seen in Democrats in supporters of Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner. Further, comparing raping little boys to what Cain is accused if is a stretch. I understand Shaun’s slippery slope argument, but that ignores the concept of proportion where some crimes are clearly worse than others. Running a meth lab is worse than possessing marijuana, driving 50 miles over the speed limit is worse than driving 5 miles over the speed limit, etc.

    I doubt the GOP is driven by “woman-hating” so much as just protecting their guy. It’s wrong but prevalent in both parties.

  • John Johnson

    I think that Shan is a gifted writer. His piece on the state of thoroughbred racing was superb. This being said, I think that he gets too big for his britches on occasion, and he also goes overboard.

    I agree with the bases of this thread, but he takes it too far, as he seems to do on occasion. It makes me view him as a radical. He doesn’t see himself that way, but I do.

  • sentry

    Why? He’s the news among the GOP candidates currently, that’s why.

    Would Shaun Mullen have made his claim about Bill Clinton, notably while Bill Clinton was in office?

  • sentry:

    I covered the Monica Lewinsky and impeachment circus and was harshly critical of Clinton. I remain so and was harshly critical of his wife’s refusal to address her husband’s philandering when she sought the Democratic nomination in 2008.

    I call ’em as I see em, okay?

  • DaGoat

    Shaun I don’t think the question would be so much whether you were critical of Clinton so much as were you critical of the Democrats that were knee-jerk circling the wagons to defend him. Did you feel the Democrats were guilty of looking “the other way when its so-called morals get in the way of their heroes”? How were Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick portrayed? How did you feel about Gloria Steinem’s “one free grope” comment? Was it a war on women by Democrats?

    Maybe you are being completely consistent. Since I haven’t read your stuff from the Clinton era I don’t know. I think you are 100% right the knee-jerk GOP defense of Cain is wrong and reflects badly on the party. I do agree with AD that it looks like you are trying to spin this in one direction though.

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