Missouri State Representative Sara Lampe issued a scathing statement Thursday about comments Missouri coach Gary Pinkel made about Joe Paterno at SEC Media Days.
"Paterno may have been a great coach, but as a man he failed at what mattered - protecting children from a sexual predator," Lampe, a Democrat from Springfield running for lieutenant governor, said in the statement. "Coach Pinkel's defense of the indefensible indicates that he holds the same attitude that allowed the reprehensible situation at Penn State to occur; the attitude that building a successful football program is more important than everything else, including protecting innocent children from rapists."
On Tuesday, Pinkel said the following:
"Joe Paterno's a friend that I got to know professionally, and you can't take away the greatness of this man. He was a great man. However you analyze this, you can't erase all that this guy's done. You can't do that. Nobody can do that."
"He was a great man, a good man. I'm sure he would, maybe if he could do it over again he would have followed up a few things. But don't take away all this guy did, and to sit there and blame him for all this, I think is wrong."
As Graham said so appropriately at the time, Pinkel stepped on a media relations landmine given the information in the Freeh Report. And as Pinkel's comments made the rounds his remarks were panned, though the landmine hadn't detonated fully. Well, until Lampe's release, that is.
Tuesday, Pinkel said that he hadn't read much about the Penn State situation, and in an interview with a St. Louis radio station Thursday afternoon, Lampe said that she had read an executive summary and news reports about the Freeh Report, telling KFNS-AM that "My conclusion from that is the reason I made the statement I made," and that her statement had nothing to do with the upcoming Democratic primary election on August 7. Lampe is one of eight Democrats on the ballot in the August primary. The winner will likely face current Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder in November.
Lampe, a former teacher and principal, told the Associated Press that ''I believe Coach Pinkel was using his public voice to do what's right, and I'm doing the same. I have spent 30 years standing up for children.''
The Missouri athletic department has declined comment on Lampe's remarks, and that's the right call -- there's no need to continue to dwell on a topic that would yield no benefit to either party. Pinkel's comments were one instance too many, and it's doubtful Lampe would see a boost -- no matter her position -- from a protracted war of words with the only FBS level football program in the red-leaning state.