CORONADO, California (AP) — President Barack Obama says the Penn State sex-abuse scandal should lead to “soul-searching” by all Americans, not just the college at the center of the storm.
“What happened was heartbreaking, especially for the victims, the young people who got affected by these alleged assaults,” he told Westwood One Radio in an interview Friday, in his first public comments on the scandal.
“It’s a good time for the entire country to do some soul-searching — not just Penn State. People care about sports, it’s important to us, but our No. 1 priority has to be protecting our kids. And every institution has to examine how they operate, and every individual has to take responsibility for making sure that our kids are protected.”
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The Pennsylvania State scandal has cost several university officials their jobs, most notably longtime football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier. They were fired because trustees felt they did not do enough to alert law enforcement authorities after an alleged assault in March 2002 by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s former assistant and onetime heir apparent, who has been charged with molesting eight boys over 15 years.
Obama said that the scandal shows that “you can’t just rely on bureaucracy and systems in these kinds of situations. People have to step forward, they have to be tapping into just their core decency.” When kids are mistreated — or anyone, for that matter — “all of us have to step up, we don’t leave it to somebody else to take responsibility.”
The abuse scandal has rocked the famed Penn State football program, college football more broadly, and led to shock across the nation.
Paterno spent 46 years leading the Penn State team, and won more games than any other major college football coach in America. The Nittany Lions’ success has brought in millions of dollars in television broadcast rights, merchandising and more.
American football is a hugely popular sport in the United States, where 120 schools play at the highest collegiate level.
Penn State has one of the large fan bases, routinely drawing crowds of more than 100,000 people to home games at Happy Valley.
In recent years, the top college football conferences — such as the Big Ten, where Penn State plays — have been paid billions of dollars for the TV rights to their games.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.