Today in Buzz Bissinger: ‘Friday Night Lights’ author rails against Delco Times column

Philly author, talk show host, Daily Beast contributor and all-around iconic local curmudgeon Buzz Bissinger took to social media today to rail against a Delaware County Times column comparing media coverage of a University of Pennsylvania professor found guilty of possessing child pornography – and the school’s response (or lack thereof) – with that of the explosive Penn State scandal revolving around former football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The article points out that while UPenn allegedly knew about Professor Scott Ward’s penchant for prepubescent boys as early as 1993, they continued to both employ him and finance his trips abroad until 2006, when he was busted during his return from one such trip to Thailand for possessing DVDs depicting sex acts with underage boys. Yet more images were found during a raid of his on-campus office.

UPenn responded not by hiring outside investigators or taking any sanctions, but by “stonewalling” the media and public, who in return, waged no sort of campaign for transparency – save one Philadelphia Magazine story – columnist Gil Spencer wrote.

The article concludes by calling out Bissinger, a UPenn alum and vocal critic of Penn State’s handling of the Sandusky scandal:

“Finally, I’d very much like to know where one of Penn’s most esteemed graduates, Pulitzer-prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger, stands on all this. After all, no single person in America has publicly expressed more outrage and disgust over the failures at Penn State University.

In his columns and TV appearances, Bissinger has not only applauded the sanctions against Penn State and the crippling of its football program, he has led the campaign to vilify the late Joe Paterno as a “dictator” and dangerous egomaniac. He has made clear that he finds the culture of big time college football sickening and directly blames it for the failure of nerve that allowed a sexual predator like Sandusky to run amok.

So what explains the culture at his own alma mater that allowed Professor Ward to continue his own decades-long crime spree?

If Buzz Bissinger weighed in on the Ward case, I couldn’t find it. But I would love to hear him explain why PSU should pony up $60 million for its allegedly protecting a pedophile and the Wharton school should not. Why PSU’s football program should be eviscerated and the academic institution that protected Ward by means of tenure and due process should not. And why not.

I don’t expect Bissinger to admit that his contempt for the culture of college football and all things Paterno has poisoned his view of this case. But more fair-minded journalists ought to have resisted throwing in with this torch and pitchfork crowd.”

Bissinger first took to Twitter to vent his rage. “The story in the Delco Times is misleading and false. I did not read the
Philly Mag story. I knew nothing. Mr. Spencer never interviewed me,” he wrote.

Followed by: “I have asked the Delco Times to take the story down
immediately because it is totally misleading and damaging. I knew
nothing of the case.”

He then elaborated on Facebook:

“A story appeared in the DelcoTimes today by Gil Spencer questioning why I never wrote about a Penn professor named Scott Ward. Based on Mister Spencer’s account, Ward’s conduct was sickening as was Penn’s in keeping him on as a faculty member. There is no dispute about that.

But I never read the Philly Mag story and knew none of the details. Had Mister Spencer interviewed me, as he had a responsibility to do because of the seriousness of the clear implication that I acted unethically and in effect covered up the situation at Penn because I went there 36 years ago, he would have discovered that I had no knowledge of the story. He also would have discovered that I had no forum to write about the case anyway since I was writing books. The Daily Beast did not exist then and I had not been offered a column by either the Daily News or the Inquirer.

I have asked both Mister Spencer and the editors of the Delco Times to remove the story from the Internet immediately although there already have been Facebook posts and comments, extensive tweets, and personal emails questioning my fairness and reputation. Some of those tweets have been sent to esteemed colleagues in an effort to embarrass me and unfairly question my columns about Penn State and Joe Paterno.”

Both writers have good points – Spencer about the comparative lack of pressure on UPenn to explain why the school harbored a pedophile professor and Bissinger about the lack of due diligence resulting from Spencer’s alleged failure to contact him before presuming to know his point of view – and lampooning it.

Though it’s strange to say, Bissinger is sort of coming off as the ultimate voice of reason here. No caps or gratuitous punctuation needed.

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