O'Brien's Departure & "Paterno People": The Case That David Jones Lied, May Have Broken the Law, & Why it Matters

Three of the primary principles on which I have been guided through this crazy odyssey are the following:

1) Whether out of incompetence, corruption, or both, the news media will almost always screw this story up.

2) Stories which do not make any sense are probably not accurate.

3) The truth of any matter will eventually come out in some way as long as you look hard and have enough patience.

All three of those principles have been seemingly been vindicated once again when it comes to the reporting on Bill O’Brien’s sudden exit from Penn State by anti-Paterno Patriot News columnist David Jones.

To fully understand the remarkable level of apparent deceit and media malpractice involved here, it is necessary to go through the timeline of events.

We now know that on (or about) December 4th then Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien called David Jones and apparently made several very provocative comments about both his future with the school as well as his feelings toward “Paterno People.” According to a radio commentary by Penn State broadcaster Steve Jones, this conversation took place only after David Jones had called Bill O’Brien numerous times without being able to get a hold of him and the columnist also misrepresented O’Brien’s true feelings on the divisive issue.

It now appears (though his story has shifted) that much of this conversation was “on the record,” though Jones did somehow not make any public mention of this talk until December 16th, which seems almost impossible to believe. A Paterno-hating columnist like Jones sitting on negative comments about “Paterno People” by Penn State’s head football coach is almost like a six-foot-four graduate assistant deciding not to stop an old man from sexually assaulting a boy in a shower and leaving the two of them together as he left.

I mean, we all know that could never happen, right?

So then Jones decided on December 16th to finally reference this conversation in a bizarre column which took fence-sitting to an entirely new level (keep in mind he would later claim that O’Brien had already told him “off the record” that he was leaving). In the article, Jones takes every possible position on the issue of O’Brien’s possible departure from Penn State, before finally concluding that he would stay, saying:

But, what I’m ultimately left with is my perception that I think the guy has a soul. I may be proven wrong in the coming weeks. But I don’t think Bill O’Brien is some shameless carpetbagger of the Todd Graham design – two years here, two years there and on and on up an endless career ladder. I think when he signed the current freshman class, including his prize pupil quarterback Christian Hackenberg, it was understood he’d see them through at least the first halves of their college careers. I honestly don’t think he has the stomach to turn his back on them.

During that column Jones also described his previous contact with O’Brien this way:

I’ve called and texted O’Brien for the past 24 hours asking him to put all the latest speculation to rest by coming out publicly and stating that he will return to coach Penn State next season. O’Brien is usually very good at getting back to me and he may at some point still. But up to this hour, he has not. Draw your own conclusions from that.

I’ve had a couple of phone conversations with O’Brien during the last two weeks, one fairly lengthy the other brief. They were understood as, and must remain, off-the-record.

I can tell you that neither gave me much firm ground on which to assess prospects for his sticking around another year or two. I’m not even sure he knows what he’ll do. The last thing he said to me was, “I’m not leaving.” But I have no right to hold him to that. He’s his own man, all business situations are fluid and football at this level is nothing if not a business.

Here is that column in it’s entirely:


At this point Jones is clearly committing “media malpractice” on several fronts. First, he gives the impression he thinks O’Brien will stay when he has every reason to believe he will not. Secondly, he claims the conversations were “off the record” (and must remain so!), but he inexplicably quotes O’Brien as saying “I’m not leaving,” in direct contradiction to what he knows the likely truth is. Thirdly, he provides no explanation for why he has not mentioned any of this in the twelve days since the key phone call happened.

Then, as talk of O’Brien leaving to the Texans started to really heat up and the quality of life for many people (signed and potential recruits, assistant coaches, current players, etc) hung in the balance over Christmas, Jones stayed almost totally silent. After the news of his departure became official, Jones wrote another column which allowed him to (sort of) come clean about what he knew and when he knew it. Here is that column:


Remarkably, Jones started off by making several amazing confessions. He wrote:

On Dec. 4, I was returning from Penn State’s men’s basketball game at Pitt when I had a 20-minute phone conversation with Bill O’Brien, who was himself driving on what he said was a recruiting trip.

It was then that I had a pretty good idea he might not be the head football coach at Penn State much longer. Because he told me so.

I was not at liberty to quote him then because the dialogue was agreed upon to remain strictly off the record. But it was clear to me when the call ended that O’Brien’s incongruous two-year marriage with Penn State was in jeopardy.

The first thing to note is that when Jones says that “I was returning from” a basketball game and that O’Brien “was himself driving,” which strongly implies that Jones is driving at the time of the conversation. This is important because making notes while driving and talking on a cell phone is obviously impossible. Jones quotes are so specific and O’Brien’s negative comments about “Paterno People” are so complex that this means that, unless he made a recording, his account is inherently not trustworthy (even if Jones wasn’t already on the record as being extremely biased against “Paterno People”).

Then there is the issue of Jones admitting that he knew that O’Brien was going to leave, which essentially means that he is admitting to having lied in his December 16th column about both his level of knowledge as well as his view of what would ultimately happen.

Finally, there is the topic of what was and what was not “on the record.” Here Jones says that “the dialogue” was agreed to be “strictly” off the record. He let’s the reader think the whole conversation was “off the record.” but does leave some small wiggle room with the phrase “not at liberty to quote him then.”  

This last point was further confused when the Patriot News editorial board tripled down on the Jones report by running a particularly peculiar editorial on it. Here is that column:


If the paper itself practically bragging about the dissemination of an “off the record” conversation wasn’t strange enough, they also went to great lengths to promote the totally false narrative of the “Paterno People” having forced O’Brien to leave and they absolved him of any guilt for having done so. They even came up with a classy brand new name for Paterno supporters, “Zombified Acolytes”

By now I had all sorts of questions about what really happened here. It certainly appeared that, at least effectively if not on purpose, the paper had both paved the way for O’Brien to safely leave on his own timeline, as well created an excuse for his departure which fit perfectly into their agenda.

It should be well known by this point that I am not a conspiracy person and I was not at this juncture thinking that one had occurred here. Rather it seemed to me that O’Brien may have manipulated Jones and that Jones was all too willing to be manipulated and do O’Brien’s dirty work for him (which may have been why O’Brien chose to make those comments to someone as suspect as Jones in the first place).

In short, I had a lot of suspicions. So when I heard that Jones was doing a live online chat (ironically during O’Brien’s press introduction conference in Houston) I was eager to participate.

The first question I asked him was whether he lied in his December 16th column when he said that he didn’t think that O’Brien was leaving Penn State. His “response” was astonishing to me (which was remarkable because after the last two years on this insane story it is very difficult for me to be surprised by anything the media does). He wrote on the Patriot News blog that I “shouldn’t put words in his mouth,” which was particularly odd because all I was doing was quoting him directly and posting a link to his actual column. Then he proceeded to post a six-year-old video of me which I am pretty sure never aired on television and which couldn’t have been less relevant (except that it was obviously at Jones’s fingertips because he was expecting/fearing me being there). At that point, in the real world, Jones was effectively admitting, “yeah, I lied.”

After that I was shocked that he did actually answer my second question and I was even more surprised at what he said.

I asked about the circumstances of the interview itself, whether he was really driving in his car at the time, and whether he had recorded the conversation. Here is his direct response:


I wasn't driving and I was using a tape recorder and none of the quotes I used were off-the-record except for the part when he said Penn State would be needing a new coach in about a month.

There are at least three amazing aspects of what Jones wrote there. First, he now, inexplicably, says that he was not driving, which seems to clearly contradict the implication of his January 1st telling of the story. Second, he admits that the conversation was recorded. Third, he now claims that the only part of the conversation he ended up quoting from which was actually “off the record” dealt with him saying he was leaving Penn State, but he seems to “forget” that he quoted O’Brien on December 16th as saying, “I’m not leaving.”

The fact that Jones now says that he recorded the conversation is quite extraordinary. This means that there is apparently an actual recording of the conversation which was not released (how in the world do you have “on the record” audio of Bill O’Brien ripping “Paterno People” and not release it, especially when context here is so incredibly important?!). I asked Jones if he would release the audio, but, as far as I can tell, he did not respond to that question and, all too predictably, the rest of the moronic media has not pressured him to do so.

Another very important aspect of the recording issue is that, since it was on a phone and in the state of Pennsylvania, if O’Brien did not know he was being recorded, Jones clearly broke a serious law. Here is that law:


So if we presume for a moment that Jones wasn’t stupid enough to break the law and then divulge that publicly, that means that O’Brien had to be told that he was being recorded. On its face that seems plausible, except for the fact that Jones has described the conversation as “off the record,” other than when O’Brien talks about “Paterno People” and specifically tells him “you can print that.” This strongly implies that, since no reporter in their right mind would tell Bill O’Brien that they were taping an “off the record” conversation, the conversation may have actually been “on the record” and Jones decided to save it for strategic purposes. This would mean that Jones was being highly unethical, but did not indeed break the law.

To be clear there are really only three choices here:

1) Jones somehow decided to ask O’Brien if he could record an “off the record” conversation and O’Brien inexplicably said yes (nearly impossible to believe).

2) Jones secretly and unethically taped an “off the record” phone conversation and broke the law (nearly impossible to believe unless Jones is both a moron and highly unethical).

3) Jones is lying and changing his story about what happened because he is trying to cover up the reality that he was not acting as a reporter of news but as someone who was trying to manipulate it for his own purposes (quite possible).

While I lean towards number three, I am honestly not sure which answer is correct and unfortunately because of the pathetic and incestuous nature of the mainstream media neither Jones nor O’Brien will even be seriously asked about these important questions (I have already tried very hard to get two different reporters to pursue this topic, but both were clearly too afraid of hurting future job prospects to do so).

The most peculiar inconsistency in the Jones story is the part about whether he was driving. There doesn’t seem to be a valid reason why he would change that part unless he later realized that the key portion of the “interview” actually took place in a separate conversation.  But why would he suddenly remember that on January 3rd when he didn’t when he wrote his key January 1st column? The only other possibility I can think of is that he was in a car but someone else was driving (which could be consistent with the Steve Jones version of events as he indicated on the radio that another reporter may have witnessed the conversation).

Emblematic of this entire case, largely because of media incompetence, we will likely never know for sure what really happened here.

It is important to note that this story is far more significant than some sort of academic discussion of journalistic ethics (as if they still exist). The way this went down had a rather considerable impact on the perception of the political situation at Penn State and likely limited the school's options with regard to finding O’Brien’s replacement. After all, what big-time coach without ties to the school would possibly decide to walk into such a supposedly toxic situation? It also further cemented the misperception of “Paterno People” in the national media and made the environment even more difficult for our movement for truth and justice (any time you go from “JoeBots” to “Zombified Acolytes,” that is problematic) .

In the end, both O’Brien and Jones got everything they each wanted from this situation. That doesn’t mean they were, at some level, in “cahoots,” but it doesn’t mean they weren’t either. What is certain is that, once again, Penn State and the truth were once again unfairly harmed.

If there is one possible silver lining here it is which, ironically, Jones' pathetic attempt to blame “Paterno People” for O’Brien escaping to the NFL (which ESPN of course bought into hook, line and sinker) may have inadvertently created the circumstances where a “Paterno Person” will end up replacing him (or even MORE ironically, someone who was wrongly accused of covering up an actual rape committed by people of whom he was actually in charge).



On January 14th, Bill O'Brien gave ESPN radio an interview in which he said that the interpretation of his comments was "inaccurate" and he referred to his "conversation" (not "interview") with Jones several times. "Shockingly," there has been no attempt to even ask Jones about releasing the tape he says he has of the conversation.