Larry Nassar fallout claims biggest figurehead yet

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Amid rising calls for her resignation, Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon announced Wednesday she would step down as head of the school.

Her announcement came just hours after former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for pleading guilty to criminal sexual misconduct.

Nassar sexually abused more than 150 girls and women who were referred to him for treatment, many at a clinic on Michigan State’s campus.

Simon’s is the first of what could be a number of resignations in the fallout of the Nassar scandal. The U.S. Olympic Committee has called for all directors of USA Gymnastics to step down as questions continue over how Nassar was able to abuse so many victims for so long.

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“As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable,” Simon said in statement. “As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger. I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU. I have tried to make it not about me. I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement.”

She also stressed that was no cover-up at MSU as the investigation into Nassar unfolded.

“The survivors’ accounts are horrific,” Simon said. “They are tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching. I take solace that many victims have indicated that the opportunity to confront Nassar is a step toward healing. I am proud of the exceptional work of the Special Victims Unit led by Lt. Andrea Munford with the steadfast leadership of Chief Dunlap. I am proud of my support of their work even though the results have been very painful to all who watched.”

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University trustee Mitch Lyons said Simon needed to step down because the public’s trust in her leadership was irreparably damaged.

“Though too long coming, there’s no joy in … receiving president Simon’s resignation,” Lyons said. “What it lacked in personal accountability, it accomplished in beginning to take responsibility as an institution and is the next step in the path forward for MSU — for our students, our faculty and our alumni. My prayer is that we continue to keep the survivors and their well being at the forefront through this process.”

Michigan’s state House of Representatives had called on Simon to resign in a resolution passed Wednesday afternoon.

Even some of the victims who spoke at Nassar’s sentencing hearing lashed out at the university for failing to act as victims first came forward with allegations against him.

ESPN reported that a formal investigation of Nassar by the university’s campus police and its Title IX office did not begin until 2014 — 17 years after the first complaint was made to a university coach.

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“No one handled the reports of abuse properly,” said Rachael Denhollander, a former MSU gymnast who filed the first police report against Nassar in 2016. “Victims were silenced and even forced to go back for further sexual assault. They did not listen in 1997 or 1998 or 1999 or 2000 or 2004 or 2014.”

Amy Labadie, a victim and former gymnast, also was critical of the school’s leadership.

“Come hell or high water, we will take every last one of you down that could have stopped this monster,” Labadie said.

Simon’s resignation doesn’t end the scrutiny the university will continue to face. The NCAA announced Tuesday it has formally begun an investigation into MSU’s handling of the Nassar case.

The school is also certain to face a litany of civil lawsuits from victims.

Per the terms of Simon’s employment agreement with the university, she could receive her current salary of $750,000 for a period of up to two years after she steps down, and 75 percent of her salary for two additional years.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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