SCRANTON (AP) - Faced with a searing Penn State-sanctioned report, Joe Paterno's family on Thursday denied that he took part in a cover-up of child sex abuse allegations, said he didn't know Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile and said the late coach was fooled by a "great deceiver."
The family's statement about Paterno's conduct was a sharp contrast to the report issued by special investigator Louis Freeh, who said Paterno was one of four powerful university officials who concealed sex abuse reports regarding Sandusky to avoid criticism of the university and its football program.
Paterno's son, Scott, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview the family had seen the report and concluded "the fact of the matter is there was no evidence of any cover-up."
Scott Paterno said the family was not challenging the report but said it hoped to release a comprehensive response later to present "some things and put it in a different context and hopefully people will see the complete picture."
Freeh's report found Paterno had a conversation with athletic director Tim Curley in 2001 just before university officials decided against informing law enforcement of the allegation.
Freeh didn't know the content of that talk but said it is "the only known, intervening factor" between an agreement that the allegation should be reported to child welfare officials and the change of course.
"To my understanding ... when all is said and done, Joe never said, 'Don't investigate,'" to Curley, Scott Paterno told the AP. "There was no intent to conceal (anything) by Joe ... It was reported to people he was supposed to."
The Freeh report also found Paterno was aware of a 1998 abuse report involving Sandusky and asked Curley follow-up questions about it.
Paterno told a grand jury in January 2011 he did not know of any allegations prior to 2001, though he may have been involved in a discussion about "a rumor." Paterno's family had also said the coach did not know of any other allegations.
The report said Paterno and the administrators did not alert the trustees or take more action against Sandusky.
"None of them even spoke to Sandusky about his conduct. In short, nothing was done and Sandusky was allowed to continue with impunity," Freeh wrote in the report.
Paterno died in January of lung cancer and never spoke with the Freeh group, though Freeh said Thursday that he believed it was Paterno's intention to do so.
At the time of his grand jury testimony, Paterno was 84 and recovering from illness.
"The fact that he didn't remember something doesn't entirely shock me," Scott Paterno said. "I don't know what he was told until I hear (it) from Tim Curley," he said.
He added, "Some of the conclusions are based on less than thick evidence. The idea that he was closely following the 1998 (report) is drawn based" on two emails.
The 1998 encounter was investigated by police but ultimately resulted in no charges at the time. It wasn't until last year Sandusky faced charges in connection with that case.
When asked how the findings might affect his father's legacy, Scott Paterno said it would be addressed as part of the family response.
"This will be just the beginning of the discussion of what happened," he said. "But in the end, (the report) supported what we said from the beginning - that Joe never did anything to interfere with an investigation and fulfilled his legal obligation."