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Senators pull support for Medal of Freedom for Joe Paterno

November 10, 2011|By Colby Itkowitz | The Morning Call
  • Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and his wife, Susan, greet well-wishers after Paterno was fired over a sex abuse scandal involving his former assistant coach.
Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and his wife, Susan, greet… (Gene J. Puskar / Associated…)

The shock waves from the explosive scandal at Penn State are reaching Washington.

Pennsylvania Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey will rescind their Medal of Freedom nomination for former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in the wake of the child abuse scandal involving his former assistant coach, the senators said Thursday.

Paterno was fired Wednesday evening by the school's board of trustees, ending his 46-year-tenure as head coach.

The award is considered the highest honor a civilian can receive. Toomey, Casey and Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn Thompson, who represents State College, nominated Paterno in early September.

"Coach Paterno over the years has shown tremendous character and loyalty," the lawmakers wrote to President Obama. "Throughout his time at Penn State, he has remained committed to reaching goals without sacrificing the ideals that are central to higher education."

The senators released a joint statement:

“In light of the recent events in State College, we are rescinding our support for the nomination of Joe Paterno for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. We hope the proper authorities will move forward with their investigation without delay. Penn State is an important institution in our commonwealth. We should turn our attention to the victims of these atrocious crimes and ensure they get the help they need. Our hearts and prayers go out to them and their families.”

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about the scandal during the daily White House briefing Thursday.

"You know, we're not going to get into the decisions made by the university. What I can say is that if the allegations about what happened up there prove true, that they -- what happened is outrageous, and our -- the president's thoughts and prayers and all of our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the abuse and the family members of those victims," Carney said.

James Oliphant of the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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