John Engler, Michigan State’s interim president who last year falsely claimed that a Larry Nassar victim got “kickbacks” from lawyers for encouraging other women to speak up about Nassar’s abuse, has now said that the women who Nassar assaulted are “enjoying” the spotlight.
“You’ve got people, they are hanging on and this has been … there are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight,” Engler told the Detroit News on Friday. “In some ways, they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition.”
The remark was buried at the very end of the story about how MSU would allocate funds to help Nassar’s victims seek counseling. At issue, the story said, was whether the money would be available to all victims or only victims who were not part of the university’s $500 million settlement that requires MSU to “pay $425 million to 332 claimants and $75 million to future claimants, of whom 172 are under consideration.”
The Detroit Metro Times highlighted Engler’s comment today, noting that when he was governor, “Engler fought hard against a lawsuit brought by dozens of female inmates who had been raped by state corrections officers. Despite Engler’s efforts, it ended in what at the time was the largest payout in state history.”
The chairwoman of the MSU Board of Trustees, Dianne Byrum, distanced the board from Engler’s statement in a statement to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “His remarks were ill advised and not helpful to the healing process, survivors, or the university.”
In his interview with the Detroit News last week, Engler mentioned all the work that he has done so that the hypothetical next president of the university can take over the job and look ahead. Whether or not that’s even true—MSU has repeatedly bungled its handling of the Nassar investigation and ensuing fallout—it raises the question of why Engler, who was named interim president last February and has shown himself to be unfit as the university president time and again, has been allowed to remain at the helm for nearly a year.