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March 25, 2013

Column: Dunces on parade

After watching CNN talk show host Piers Morgan and FramingPaterno.com documentarian John Ziegler bicker with each other like children Monday night, one thing is overwhelmingly clear:

They're both right.

Though the conversation quickly deteriorated into a crass and unintelligible argument between two people effectively speaking different languages, Ziegler was correct in saying that Morgan, "knows nothing about this case."

Morgan repeatedly steered the conversation toward a narrative that, though it has been accepted as fact at this point, shows no nuance or understanding of the complexities to a situation that was and continues to be filled with them.

"Joe Paterno did know that Sandusky was abusing young boys in the shower. Clearly he did, that's why he was fired," Morgan said. "Jerry Sandusky was one of the worst predatory pedophiles I've seen in a very long time. Joe Paterno knew he was doing this stuff to those boys, because he reported it to the board. We know this."

We don't know this.

Outside of Sandusky being a horrible, predatory pedophile, little about Morgan's statements are anything more than supposition. Certainly, while he's entitled to his own opinion and interpretation of the events described, to frame them as fact is misinformed at best and, maybe more likely, a disingenuous way of controlling the narrative.

"Of course there was a cover up," Morgan continued. "That's why Joe Paterno was fired. Joe Paterno knew that Sandusky was behaving utterly inappropriately toward these young boys. It was a disgraceful dereliction of his duties.

"By any definition, Joe Paterno failed those boys. He failed the boys in his charge."

Frankly, the idea that, because Joe Paterno was fired by Penn State's Board of Trustees, he is clearly and without any doubt in dereliction of his duties, is laughable, for a number of reasons. Beyond the obvious contention over specific details about what Paterno did and did not know, the very notion of using the Board's actions to fire Paterno as capital-P proof of 'dereliction of his duties' is absurd.

Even Morgan's assertions about Ziegler's goals and end game were malicious mischaracterizations. Though Ziegler has at times willfully spun the improbable, not once has he called, "the victims liars, trying to smear their names, trying to minimize what (Sandusky) did," as Morgan claimed during the interview.

Ziegler's response to all of this, however, is where Morgan comes up a winner.

By the end of the interview, after proving Morgan to be an ill-informed, insufferable fool to the few people who have bothered to pay attention to the minutia of this entire ordeal, Ziegler himself managed to come across as an even bigger buffoon, a jerk, and ultimately, a nuclear bomb to his very own cause.

Sharp-tongued, arrogant, brash and a unreasonable brat responding to every one of Morgan's faulty arguments, Ziegler is the exact opposite of the sympathetic figure the Paterno family has tried to portray since its own media blitz more than six weeks ago. Certainly, it's to the family's credit that they've disavowed a man who - regardless of his intentions - has managed to so publicly alienate and pigeonhole a cause that the national sentiment has begun softening toward.

When presented without emotion, some of Ziegler's assertions and claims are thought provoking and well taken. But, in an effort that has lacked an organized, credible and sympathetic messenger from its onset, the end result has been and will continue to be a complete discounting of the argument - regardless of its merit - by the public at large.

In that respect, Morgan unwittingly hit the nail on the head in his final statement to his guest.

"To you, Mr. Ziegler, I would take the Paterno family's advice and just disappear."

For the family's sake, and anyone else with an interest in changing a public perception of Paterno that is still somewhat salvageable, Ziegler would do well for himself to heed their advice and slip out of the spotlight.










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