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Jay Paterno owes public an explanation for column promoting Saudi Arabia following luxury junket

Yesterday morning, Penn State Trustee Jay Paterno took to Twitter to promote his latest column.

A seemingly normal occurrence, except this column wasn’t for his long-running StateCollege.com series, but rather for the outlet Arab News, owned by a Saudi conglomerate with deep ties to the royal family.

The column is pretty typical as travel-writing goes, except for its total obliviousness to the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi and subsequent coverup effort.

For what it’s worth, Jay’s message of reconciliation and togetherness is admirable (despite the Orientalism underlying the article), but it’s really the complete lack of political tact and the absence of any disclosure regarding what he was paid to write the column (let alone the details of the trip, who paid, who he met, etc) that bothers me.

Paterno was elected to the Penn State Board of Trustees in May 2017 and has previously kicked the tires on a Congressional run. By his own actions he is a man in the arena, to use the words of TR, and as such he owes the public an explanation for how this column and trip came to be. Specifically, the concern here is that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is using Paterno as a pawn for positive PR.

Jay unfortunately missed the easy opportunity to do this the right way by disclosing with the tweet and column whether he was paid and/or the trip was funded by KSA associates.

A number of people have already tweeted at Jay, asking him for more details. So far he has chosen not to respond, despite clearly being active on the social network as demonstrated with additional retweets and other replies.

Jay also posted to Instagram about the column.

Jay was also tagged in a shot by fellow Penn State Trustee Brandon Short, a McKeesport native and former NFL player. The photo is captioned, “My Penn State and NFL crew at the Formula E race in Riyadh.”

Tap to expand image.

At this time, it’s not clear if Paterno or Short cleared this trip or column with Penn State University in a formal capacity, and I have sent an email to the University asking for more detail.

Update 2:00pm: Penn State responds.

Did Trustee Paterno and/or Trustee Short arrange the trip to Saudi Arabia through Penn State?  No

Did Penn State approve or otherwise sign off on the column by Trustee Paterno that ran in Arab News?  No

Does the University or President Barron have any additional comment on this situation?  No

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