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Donald Trump asks Pittsburgh: ‘How’s Joe Paterno?’

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump brought his campaign to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, confusing attendees at a rally by asking about former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump brought his campaign to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, where he asked attendees at a rally about former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

"I know a lot about Pennsylvania, and it's great," Trump said Wednesday. "How's Joe Paterno? We going to bring that back? How about that whole deal?"

Understandably, some folks in the crowd appeared to be confused by Trump's question. Paterno passed away in January 2012 at age 85, several months after being let go from Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for abusing 10 young boys over more than a decade.

Trump later clarified his comments through a spokesperson, who told CNN's Ashley Killough that the presidential candidate was referring to the bronze statue of Joe Paterno that formerly stood in front of Beaver Stadium "that they melted down."

The statue was taken down in 2012 in connection with the Sandusky scandal, and stored "in a secure location." As Dan McQuade at PhillyMag notes, the notion that the statue was melted down appears to stem from an Onward State blog post from April Fool's Day last year.

Incidentally, there were calls to melt the statue down following the scandal. Sculptor Larry Nowlan, who is known for his statue of Harry Kalas at Citizens Bank Park, suggested the statue be melted down and re-cast into a "healing memorial for victims of child abuse."

A Quinnipiac University Poll from 2015 found that about 59 percent of Pennsylvania's adults would like the Paterno statue returned to a visible spot on Penn State's campus. Currently, a new Paterno statue is being created in a secret location, as Yesid Gomez and Wilfer Buitrago — the artists who cast the original statue from artist Angelo Di Maria's sculpture — announced this past February.

Pittsburgh, of course, is home to the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, who have long had an in-state rivalry with the Penn State Nittany Lions. State College, where Penn State's main campus is located, is roughly 2.5 hours east of Pittsburgh.

Trump has spoken about Paterno and Penn State football in the past, tweeting in July 2012 that Penn State's football program should be suspended following the Sandusky scandal:

Then, several weeks following that message, Trump came to the deceased Paterno's defense:

In September 2012, Trump recommended Paterno's family sue the school, and lamented the loss of Penn State's legacy, which he wrote was "ruined":

Earlier this week, Trump called the presidential nomination process "very unfair," telling CNN's Anderson Cooper that he doesn't think he has the support of the Republican National Committee.

"I know the rules very well, but I know that it's stacked against me and by the establishment," Trump said. "I fully understand it."