Penn State alumni group bashes HBO’s ‘Paterno’
Days from its official release, HBO’s “Paterno” is drawing fire from a group of Penn State alums who came together in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, or PS4RS, which claims a membership of more than 50,000 nationwide, released a statement Wednesday afternoon, criticizing HBO Films and producer Barry Levinson for ignoring “the factual cornerstones, in favor of a lazy piece of fiction intended for nothing more than ratings.”
The film, starring Al Pacino as Paterno, is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Saturday on HBO. It focuses on the aftermath of Paterno’s ouster as the winningest coach in Division I college football in November 2011, days after former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with multiple counts of child sexual abuse in and around the Penn State campus.
In a case that rocked the college town, Sandusky, who had founded a charity for at-risk youth, eventually was convicted of abusing 10 boys and sentenced to 30-60 years in prison.
Paterno’s ouster, less than a month after the beloved coach marked his 409th victory with the Nittany Lions, triggered an outpouring of rage among many alums who argued that the hall of fame coach and the university were unfairly tarred by Sandusky’s acts.
Paterno, who was suffering from lung cancer, died in January 2012 at age 84, just two months after Penn State trustees forced his ouster.
The HBO film apparently ripped open old wounds.
“In making ‘Paterno,’ Levinson copped out on the truth with a fabricated ‘fall from grace’ tale about the late Joe Paterno, arguably the least relevant figure — but, unfortunately, the biggest box office draw — in the entire case,” PS4RS spokeswoman Maribeth Roman Schmidt said in the statement released Wednesday.
“Over the last six years it has become common knowledge that Paterno never participated in, witnessed or covered up a crime of any kind. In fact, accusations of a conspiracy within the Penn State administration to conceal information about Jerry Sandusky have been thoroughly disproven in a court of law,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said the group tried unsuccessfully to meet with HBO president Len Amato prior to the filming of “Paterno” to share its concerns.
Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib