MSU Interim President John Engler says Nassar survivors are 'enjoying' the 'spotlight'

A statement Michigan State University Interim President John Engler made to The Detroit News editorial board late last week is the subject of backlash after the Detroit Metro Times put focus on it this week and national outlets picked it up.

In an interview with the News, Engler alluded that the gymnasts abused by Larry Nassar are enjoying their moment in the spotlight while also insisting the university is done with investigations so that everyone can “get back to work.” This all while Nassar’s survivors are footing the bill for counseling and therapy that they were told a fund set up by MSU would provide.

Engler says gymnasts enjoying the moment

Engler’s controversial comments came as the close to an article about the Healing Assistance Fund approved by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees. It calls for the reinstatement of a fund meant to pay for counseling costs of those sexually abused by Larry Nassar.

The article focuses on who would be able to dip into the fund, with Engler suggesting it would be for survivors not part of the primary settlement that was determined earlier this year. From the Detroit News:

“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 News. “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.”

Engler was named interim president last February and has made headlines before, including false claims that those abused by Nassar received “kickbacks” for encouraging others to come forward.

Dianne Y. Byrum, newly elected chairwoman of the board, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that Engler’s comments were “ill advised and not helpful to the healing process, survivors, or the university.”

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Victims of Larry Nassar confront him in court
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Victims of Larry Nassar confront him in court
Victim Rachael Denhollander speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Abuse victim Jessica Thomashow addresses former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during the sentencing phase in in Eaton, County Circuit Court on January 31, 2018 in Charlotte, Michigan. The number of identified sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has grown to 265, a Michigan judge announced Wednesday as a final sentencing hearing commenced. Prosecutors said at least 65 victims were to confront Nassar in court, in the last of three sentencing hearings for the disgraced doctor who molested young girls and women for two decades in the guise of medical treatment. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Erin Blayer, a victim of former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during the sentencing phase in Eaton, County Circuit Court on January 31, 2018 in Charlotte, Michigan. The number of identified sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has grown to 265, a Michigan judge announced Wednesday as a final sentencing hearing commenced. Prosecutors said at least 65 victims were to confront Nassar in court, in the last of three sentencing hearings for the disgraced doctor who molested young girls and women for two decades in the guise of medical treatment. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Tiffany Dutton, ,a victim of former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar stands with her husband Chad, during the sentencing phase in Eaton, County Circuit Court on January 31, 2018 in Charlotte, Michigan. The number of identified sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has grown to 265, a Michigan judge announced Wednesday as a final sentencing hearing commenced. Prosecutors said at least 65 victims were to confront Nassar in court, in the last of three sentencing hearings for the disgraced doctor who molested young girls and women for two decades in the guise of medical treatment. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Victim Kaylee Lorincz wipes tears as she speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victims and others look on as Rachael Denhollander speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Sterling Riethman speaks as former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar listens during impact statements during the sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court on January 24, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. More than 100 women and girls accuse Nassar of a pattern of serial abuse dating back two decades, including the Olympic gold-medal winners Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney -- who have lashed out at top sporting officials for failing to stop him. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar gives an impact statement during the sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court on January 24, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. More than 100 women and girls accuse Nassar of a pattern of serial abuse dating back two decades, including the Olympic gold-medal winners Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney -- who have lashed out at top sporting officials for failing to stop him. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Kayla Spicher delivers a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: With her mother by her side, Kayla Spicher (R) delivers a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: With her mother by her side, Helena Weick delivers a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Larry Nassar (R) listens to a victim impact statement from Tiffany Lopez during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Larry Nassar listens to victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Larry Nassar (R) listens to a victim impact statement from Jeanette Antolin during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Gwen Anderson, standing with her former gymnastics coach Tom Brennen, reads a victim impact statement during Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. More than 100 women and girls have accused Nassar of molesting them. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Victim Emma Ann Miller (C) speaks along side her mother Leslie Miller (R) at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (L) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: With her husband by her side, Chelsea Williams delivers a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Abuse victim Jessica Thomashow addresses former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during the sentencing phase in Eaton, County Circuit Court on January 31, 2018 in Charlotte, Michigan. The number of identified sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has grown to 265, a Michigan judge announced Wednesday as a final sentencing hearing commenced. Prosecutors said at least 65 victims were to confront Nassar in court, in the last of three sentencing hearings for the disgraced doctor who molested young girls and women for two decades in the guise of medical treatment. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Victim Hannah Morrow speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (L) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Kaylee McDowell speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman appears before speaking at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman appears before speaking at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim and former gymnast Bailey Lorencen speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Clasina Syrovy speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, sits in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina presides over the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Clasina Syrovy speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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Engler done with investigations

In the same interview with the Detroit Free News editorial board, but quoted in a different article, Engler said he does not support another investigation.

“There are some people who want to continue to investigate and inquire into lots of things,” Engler told the News. “I wouldn’t support any more … We’re trying to get rid of lawyers and consultants now. We’re trying to get back to work.”

It isn’t the first time Engler has found himself surrounded by investigations and lawsuits.

The Metro Times noted that while Engler was governor of Michigan in the 1990s, the Republican fought against a lawsuit filed on behalf of dozens of female inmates who alleged they were raped by state corrections officers. The United Nations got involved and the $100 million settlement in 2009 was then the largest in state history, according to the Metro Times.

Fund for victims not up to Engler

The $10 million fund was established by the university in December 2017 to benefit survivors of Nassar’s abuse and provide for counseling fees. It was suspended in July due to a fraud investigation that did not involve survivors or their families. It was canceled a year after its founding, despite Engler saying in July it would be available in three to four months.

The university said it would take the $8.5 million still in the fund and put it into the $500 million needed for the historic settlement with survivors, thereby forcing the university to borrow less. It was one of the ways, Engler told the News then, that “MSU is accountable to those harmed.”

With three new members seated at their first meeting of the year, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to reinstate the fund. Byrum, who is also co-chair of the university’s presidential search committee, said via Twitter that Engler “does not speak for the board and does not have a vote.”

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