It is a striking feature of the three scandals. Each of them founded charities and used the consequent acclaim and public admiration to deflect, rebut or even assist them in their criminal pursuits. It worked for all three because nobody could quite believe that someone who did so much free work to help others could be guilty of such terrible things. They had to be good people. But they weren’t.
Lance Armstrong founded Livestrong, a charity founded to raise funds for cancer research. Livestrong dovetailed perfectly with Armstrong’s narrative, the cancer survivor who battled the odds to emerge as a sporting phenomenon. It meant that the aura of doing good for other cancer victims armored Armstrong against prying skeptics who doubted his story and for many, many years it worked. Go ask David Walsh.
Likewise Jimmy Savile donned the garments of the charity-worker to bullet proof himself against investigation and in the process used his fund raising at hospitals like Stoke Mandeville to gain access to more under age sex victims. In his case suspicion about his activities existed for far longer than Armstrong yet thanks in no small way to his charity work, he survived serious scrutiny until after his death.
The former football coach at Penn State University, Jerry Sandusky founded his charity, The Second Mile, way back in 1977 to serve the needs of underprivileged and at risk youth in the state. Some 100,000 youngsters a year received help from the charity and some became objects of sexual gratification for Sandusky until he was uncovered as an abuser in 2011. His charity work, like Savile’s, protected him from scrutiny and provided him with victims.
So the moral of the story? Any public personality who cloaks him or herself in the respectability of charity work should be looked at askance. Just in case. They might be hiding some awful secret. They might not. But they might.