July 25, 2018

Senator Hassan Confronts Michigan State Interim President for Disparaging Survivor of Larry Nassar’s Abuse

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, yesterday, Senator Maggie Hassan confronted Michigan State University Interim President John Engler for disparaging Rachael Denhollander, a survivor of Larry Nassar’s abuse.

The exchange occurred during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing entitled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions.” Dozens of survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse, including Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, also attended the hearing.   

Click here for the full video and transcript of the exchange or see below for a coverage recap:

Washington Post: Congress questions Michigan State interim president over sex abuse scandal

[…] As congressional efforts continued Tuesday to determine how Nassar, the convicted child molester and longtime former Michigan State and Olympic gymnastics team physician, was able to abuse girls and women for so long, Engler offered his first public explanations to federal lawmakers for words and actions that have threatened to make him the second Michigan State president shown the door over the Nassar scandal.

In written testimony and in response to aggressive questioning, Engler was at times apologetic, while also highlighting actions he believes have made Michigan State safer. As Engler spoke, dozens of Nassar accusers — many who have publicly called for his resignation — sat behind him and watched, repeatedly erupting into applause as senators hammered Engler and offered support for the victim he disparaged. 

“I think you have some repair work to do, to put it mildly,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who told Engler she was “appalled” by his email referencing Rachael Denhollander, the victim whose decision to approach the Indianapolis Star in 2016 ultimately brought about Nassar’s downfall.

The email about Denhollander, which Engler sent in April to a university vice president, was obtained through an open records request and published last month by the Chronicle of Higher Education, inspiring renewed calls by victims, supported by two Michigan State board members, for Engler to resign. […] 

AP: Senator to USOC: Take responsibility

Senators questioned the sincerity of reforms at the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University in the wake of sex-abuse scandals — using legal papers, emails and accounts of conversations to portray organizations that still don't fully grasp the pain they inflicted.

At a hearing Tuesday in Washington, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut criticized leaders of the USOC and USA Gymnastics for court filings this month that seek to absolve the federations of legal responsibility for Larry Nassar's sex-abuse crimes.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and others blistered Michigan State's interim president, John Engler, for insensitive emails and comments he made during negotiations that produced a $500 million settlement with sex-abuse victims who attended the school.

"I think you have some repair work to do here today, to put it mildly," Hassan said, prompting applause from the 80 or so victims who attended the hearing. […]

WSJ: Michigan State Acting President Engler Questioned Over Sex-Abuse Scandal 

[…] Sen. Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) criticized Mr. Engler for a private email in April in which he accused Rachael Denhollander, a victim of Nassar’s abuse, of taking kickbacks from trial attorneys involved in suing MSU. Mr. Engler later apologized.

“I think you have some repair work today, to put it mildly,” Ms. Hassan said. Several dozen Nassar survivors who attended the hearing burst into applause. […]

The Detroit News: Senators, victims slam Engler's response to Nassar scandal

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, told Engler she was “appalled” by an email he wrote disparaging Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse. In the email, Engler suggested Denhollander might get a "kickback" from her attorney for "manipulating" other victims. 

His comments, published in June, led to calls for Engler’s resignation from multiple Michigan politicians and two MSU trustees.

“Your treatment of this issue raises concerns about how MSU will move forward here. Even with all the evidence, why did you doubt Ms. Denhollander?” Hassan asked.  

“The email was, of course, in the midst of our very difficult negotiations, and it was private,” Engler said, referring to lawsuit settlement talks.

“It reflected, I guess, just the passions of the moment about whether or not there were referral fees being paid. The reality is that our actions today, I think, have consistently shown our support for the survivors.”

Hassan interrupted Engler.

“Not only are these strong, accomplished, smart athletes who have overcome enormous barriers in their lives to reach the pinnacle of their sport, they have survived unspeakable abuse. The notion that you think they can be manipulated by trial lawyers and that you would speak of them that way, is just deeply, deeply offensive. Private mail or not,” Hassan said.

“It reflects an attitude at the top of the institution that you're asking this committee, your current students, your current athletes, your alumni to trust. And I think you have some repair work to do, to put it mildly." 

The room burst into applause. […]

NPR: MSU Interim President Engler Under Fire at US Senate Committee Hearing

[…] Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) criticized Engler during a committee hearing. She called Engler out for emails he sent that said Nassar’s survivors were being manipulated by trial lawyers.

“They have survived unspeakable abuse,” Sen. Hassan said. “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.” […]