Senators blast Michigan State president's handling of sex abuse scandal

Senators blast Michigan State president's handling of sex abuse scandal
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Lawmakers on Tuesday scolded Michigan State University interim President John Engler for the school's handling of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

Testifying before a Senate Commerce subcommittee, Engler, a former Republican Michigan governor, acknowledged that  mistakes were made but insisted his school's actions under his tenure “have consistently shown our support for survivors” of Nassar’s sexual abuse.

“You could not have a Larry Nassar again at Michigan State,” Engler said.

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Engler, along with U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) acting CEO Susanne Lyons and USA Gymnastics (USAG) CEO Kerry Perry, faced harsh criticism from lawmakers and survivors alike on Tuesday.

Engler has come under fire in recent months for denying an allegation from abuse survivor Kaylee Lorincz that he offered her a $250,000 settlement in a private meeting with no attorney present. Engler doubled down on his denial Tuesday when asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

In one of the hearing’s most dramatic moments, Blumenthal said, “I believe Kaylee Lorincz.”

“I’m not going to let this issue go. I think it goes to the heart of why we’re here — in part because these survivors were disbelieved for so long,” Blumenthal added.

After the hearing, Lorincz expressed gratitude for Blumenthal’s support.

“I actually cried when he said that. I had to sit here and be called a liar, and then it goes through my head, ‘well, who else thinks I’m a liar? What if everyone else thinks I’m a liar?’ ” Lorincz said. “For Sen. Blumenthal to sit up there and say that he stands with me turned that all around.”

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Last month, Lorincz, along with more than 100 other Nassar victims, signed a letter calling on Michigan State’s governing board to fire Engler.

Nassar, who worked as a sports doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, has been accused by at least 332 young women of sexual assault. Nassar pleaded guilty to sexual assault and child pornography charges and has been sentenced to a minimum of 140 years in prison. 

Democratic Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSenators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump spotted wearing a face mask Sen. Shaheen tells Biden campaign she does not want to be vetted for VP MORE (N.H.) ripped Engler for writing in an email obtained by The Chronicle of Higher Education that one of Nassar’s victims would receive a financial “kickback” from her attorney.

“To reach the pinnacle of their sport, they have survived unspeakable abuse,” Hassan said of Nassar’s victims, “and the notion that you would think they could be manipulated by trial lawyers, and that you would speak of them that way is just deeply, deeply offensive — private email or not.”

Engler defended his tenure as president of Michigan State, saying that his administration has “fixed the policies” that led to Nassar’s abuse and “strengthened accountability.”

Engler also touted the $500 million settlement that MSU has agreed to pay out to 332 survivors.

During his testimony, Nassar victims could be seen in the front rows of the committee room wiping away tears and shaking their heads.

“The way that [Engler] has acted, the way that people at MSU have acted — it’s just disgusting. Hearing him speak, no wonder Larry Nassar got away with it for so many years,” three-time Olympic gold-medalist Aly Raisman told reporters after the hearing.