John Engler apologizes for making disparaging remarks in e-mail
Last week, it was revealed that Michigan State University interim president John Engler sent a disparaging e-mail to Carol M. Viventi, the vice president and special counsel to the president, back in mid-April regarding one of the women who has accused 54-year-old disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State physician Larry Nassar of sexual assault.
That e-mail pertained to Rachael Denhollander, who was the first of more than 300 people to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault when she took her story to The Indianapolis Star shortly before they published it in September of 2016.
After more than two decades of sexually assaulting his patients under the guise of medical treatment, Nassar was finally arrested three months after Denhollander's story was published.
Nassar has since been given three lengthy prison sentences. He is currently serving the first of those three lengthy prison sentences, a 60-year federal prison sentence that he was given on three child pornography charges, at United States Penitentiary, Tucson in Tucson, Arizona. He was given this prison sentence this past December.
Nassar was also given two state prison sentences, one in January and one in February, on seven sexual assault charges and three sexual assault charges, respectively. The sentence that he was given in January is for between 40 and 175 years, and the sentence that he was given in February is for between 40 and 125 years.
At Nassar's seven-day sentencing hearing in January, Denhollander was the 156th and final one of the 156 survivors who delivered victim impact statements in court.
In this disparaging e-mail about Denhollander, Engler accused her of likely receiving a "kickback" from her lawyer, John Manly. Manly is the lawyer for several of the people, many of whom female gymnasts, who have accused Nassar of sexual assault.
Here is the text of this e-mail, according to Deadspin.
“It is deeply appreciated. At least we know what really happened. The survivors now are being manipulated by trial lawyers who in the end will each get millions of dollars more than any of (sic) individual survivors with the exception of Denhollander who is likely to get (sic) kickback from Manley (sic) for her role in the trial lawyer manipulation.
“It is too bad we can’t have a debate about who is really trying to help those who were harmed by Nassar. At least, all of the positive changes are beginning to get some modest attention. It will be years before the use and abuse by trial lawyers point is understood. Have a good Sunday. See you Tuesday morning. John.”
Since this e-mail was revealed, there has been a lot of criticism directed at Engler, and justifiably so. Two Michigan State trustees, Brian Mosallam and Dianne Byrum, almost immediately called for him to step down, as did Denhollander.
Earlier this week, a total of 137 people who have accused Nassar of sexual assault signed a letter to the university's board of trustees urging them to fire Engler over the remarks that he made in this e-mail.
Engler, who took over as the interim president at Michigan State after former president Lou Anna Simon resigned in the wake of the Nassar scandal in late January after serving as the university's president for more than 13 years, has now apologized for making the remarks that he made in this e-mail. Here is his statement, according to Detroit Free Press.
"Last week while I was on my way to Texas, a private email conversation of mine from April was made public. I didn’t give it the consideration it warranted.
"That was a big mistake. I was wrong. I apologize.
"When I started this interim position in February, it was never my intent to have an adversarial relationship with some of the survivors.
"My speculation about the lead plaintiff receiving kickbacks or referral fees hurt her deeply and for that I am truly sorry. She and the other survivors suffered greatly and they are entitled not to have their sincerity questioned, either individually or as a group. I apologize to her and her sister survivors.
"The days after the April Board of Trustees meeting were extremely frustrating. Emotions and tempers, including mine, were running at a high level. It seemed as though we would never be able to reach a successful settlement. Nothing we were doing seemed to work.
"When I arrived at MSU, Larry Nassar was already in jail but students and survivors alike were protesting. I apologized publicly to the survivors on behalf of the University for the harm Nassar had done. Others from the university, including the Board of Trustees had also done so. But disappointment and anger overwhelmed those apologies. I felt from the day I arrived that the university and the survivors had to come together to reach a just and equitable settlement in order for the healing to begin.
"I also want to apologize to the MSU Board of Trustees and the Spartan community because my email created a major distraction from the important work we’re doing to make our campus safer.
"Days after I arrived, I moved to revoke Dean Strampel's tenure. We changed the protocols and policies in our medical clinics that allowed Nassar to escape detection for nearly two decades. We are dedicating more resources to sexual assault prevention and support services. Still that was not enough, a settlement had to be achieved.
"In May, we were able to do so.
"I am very proud that the plaintiffs, their very able counsel and the university were able to achieve a settlement which will help the healing begin. My private comments from April coming out last week impaired that healing and it reopened old wounds as many survivors felt compelled to come to the defense of the first woman who spoke out. My regrettable private email harmed the healing process and, for that, I am also very sorry.
"I will use my remaining time as Interim President of Michigan State University to continue implementing meaningful reforms that serve to increase safety and respect on our campus. Just as our new policies have assured the safety of any patient who visits an MSU clinic or is treated by an MSU physician, our additional staff and new leadership will make a profound difference across our campus.
"Finally, we continue to welcome specific suggestions about actions that might be taken to improve our success at preventing sexual misconduct or sexual assault on or off campus. Your ideas are welcomed and will be treated with the utmost consideration. Suggestions can be offered at my webpage: http://president.msu.edu."
At this point, it would appear that the former Michigan governor will not step down from his position as interim president at Michigan State.