Buzz Bissinger and Me
At the end of the column I mention that one of Philadelphia's most celebrated authors, the Pulitizer-prize-winning Buzz Bissinger seemed to have nothing to say about the Ward case back when it was going on but has been one of loudest critics of the Penn State situation and Joe Paterno.
Here is what I wrote regarding Mr. Bissinger:
Friday, I called Bissinger to ask him if he knew about the Ward case when it was going on. Given his vociferous interest in bringing child molesters and their supposed enablers to account, I thought he would be interesting to talk to.
I also sent him two e-mails. The first, telling him I was writing a column about the similarities of the two cases and asking him to call or write me. (The second to correct Ward's first name - I said it was Steven. It's Scott).
I didn't hear anything from Bissinger Friday or Saturday. The column ran without comment from him.
I did, however, hear from him Sunday morning. My wife and I were out of town, visiting friends and we were with them when he called.
To say that he was angry is a ridiculous understatement. He was spitting, fuming mad and in a expletive-laced, name-calling diatribe accused me of being unprofessional and "sandbagging" him. He said he was a "very busy" man and blamed me for his not getting back to me because I had neglected to include my deadline in the phone message or email.
(Just so you laymen know, it is by no means required or even common practice to hold an opinion piece until everyone mentioned finds the time to weigh in. Having worked for a daily newspaper himself, Bissinger's outrage on this is downright laughable.)
He said he "always respected" me and thought I was a "stand-up guy" but now his opinion had changed. He called me a "f------ a--hole" more than once.
During his spew, he said he didn't know anything about the Ward case, that he was busy writing a book at the time, and that even if he had known about it, he no longer worked for the Inquirer and had no forum on which to write about it. Then he went back to his swearing and name-calling.
I interrupted his diatribe to tell him that I was out of town and that I would be happy to talk to him when I returned. He said he had no interest in that. And that I could "f---" myself.
He hung up. But he called back a few minutes later and renewed his profanity-laden freak out. Near the end of it, he called me a "f---ing gutless coward."
At that point, I got pretty angry myself. I told him if he was going to call me a coward, I would prefer he do it "to my face" and that I would meet him wherever and whenever he wanted so he could do that. And we could see how that worked out.
By that time, however, I believe he'd hung up.
Fortunately, he called back one more time almost a half hour later, while I was on my way to the airport. He said that he was going to get me "f---ing fired." He called me a "whore" and other names. I again told him if he wanted to call me names he should have the guts to "do it to my face."
He said he was too busy. He said he was getting all sorts of emails from people based on my column. I told him he should answer them. I also pointed out that I understood that he has his own radio show, a megaphone, with which he could respond to such queries.
I thought it was strange when he angrily replied that he only had "10 listeners."
It was after my third demand that if he was going to call me a gutless coward, to do it to my face, he said, suddenly and more quietly, "When?" I said "Tomorrow night." He said, "Where?" I named a bar in Philadelphia. We settled on a time. He said he'd be there.
Later, I received this e-mail:
In advance of our meeting tomorrow, I want the column taken down off the Internet immediately. There are now dozens of tweets and Facebook posts and comments questioning my fairness and reputation. They are being disseminated everywhere.
This is damaging to my career and I have no recourse since I have no idea of how many people are receiving them.
It is also the top trafficked story on the Delco Times website.
There is no basis that I knew about the Scott Ward storybecause I did know about it.You would have learned that had you interviewed me.
But despite the seriousness of what you wrote about me, you did not. You also would have learned that I had no forum to write about Ward even if I did know about it. I was writing books at the time.
Buzz BissingerTo which I sent this reply:
The column will not be taken down in advance of our meeting tomorrow or at any other time.I have since heard that Bissinger posted a long diatribe against me on his Facebook page. Calling me, among other things, "unethical." That post, I have been led to understand, has since been taken down.
Let me reiterate, my column won't be.
I will post updates as they occur.
UPDATE: Here is the first email Bissinger sent Sunday morning right before he called me.
Of course Penn's conduct is outrageous and irresponsible. I didn't know when your column was running. I wasn't avoiding you. I am busy. You never told me you were going to make me the foil.
I had respect for you. Completely unfounded. Total ambush.
And the inference that I should have covered it. I wasn't at the Inquirer during any of this.
And you were too much of a coward to send me the column.