Michigan State University's interim president criticized lawyers who represent survivors of former doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse and suggested that the first woman to go public with her accusations was probably getting a "kickback'' from her attorney, according to emails.
John Engler's remarks were made to another university official in April, a month before Michigan State agreed to a $500 million settlement with hundreds of women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by Nassar, a campus sports doctor now serving decades in prison. The Chronicle of Higher Education and Detroit Free Press reported on the emails Wednesday.
Engler, a former Michigan governor, had an email exchange with Carol Viventi, a Michigan State vice president and special counsel. The emails followed allegations at a stormy public meeting that Engler was trying to pay off a woman without her lawyer's input.
"The survivors now are being manipulated by trial lawyers who in the end will each get millions of dollars more than any of individual survivors with the exception of Denhollander who is likely to get kickback from Manley for her role in the trial lawyer manipulation,'' Engler said, misspelling attorney John Manly's name.
Engler was referring to Rachael Denhollander, of Louisville, Kentucky, who identified herself as a survivor to the Indianapolis Star in 2016. She has repeatedly criticized Michigan State's response to the Nassar scandal.
Dianne Byrum, a member of the governing board, issued a statement saying the emails were "completely unacceptable and tone deaf'' and Engler should publicly apologize for them.
"We need to be focused on culture change at MSU and allow the healing process to begin and statements like these from Interim President Engler and his advisors are hurtful, counterproductive and unnecessary," Byrum said.
Denhollander says Engler's comments reflect a "culture of abuse."
THREAD: Engler is so used to focusing on money and power, bullying and manipulating, he can't conceive that I would do what I've done because it's RIGHT, not because I'm getting something from it. I truly pity him. What a sad way to live.https://t.co/0EREcZKfz6— Rachael Denhollander (@R_Denhollander) June 13, 2018
Manly also responded to Engler's remarks with a statement Wednesday.
"John Engler can say whatever he wants about me but, when it comes to Rachael Denhollander and the other survivors, Engler is such a misogynist and bully and he cannot fathom that he got absolutely out-maneuvered and utterly defeated by a group of women," Manly said. "This is a former Governor, who at one point was talked about as a possible presidential candidate or vice-presidential candidate and he just got beat, not by me and the other attorneys, but by a group of women who told the truth."
Brian Mosallam, a member of the Michigan State governing board, suggested that Engler should move on.
"Engler accused a sexual assault victim of perpetuating a fraud for speaking up when he should be praising her [Denhollander] courage and bravery for coming forward," Mosallam said. "I cannot fathom a more chilling tone. In no way does Engler reflect the values of MSU."
Engler was hired by trustees after Lou Anna Simon suddenly resigned in January.
"Rachael Denhollander is an inspiration for her courage and bravery to speak up and the example of leadership that Engler should follow rather than criticize out of jealousy and spite,'' Mosallam said.
ESPN's Dan Murphy and John Barr and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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