FBI Failed U.S. Gymnasts Abused by Nassar, Must Be Held Accountable
Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I discussed the dereliction of duty by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the case of Larry Nassar and the report by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General. My opening remarks are below, and video can be found here.
Mr. Chairman, thank you and Ranking Member Grassley for holding this hearing and giving me a chance to say a few words here at the beginning.
As these women and countless survivors before them have demonstrated, it takes tremendous courage for victims of sexual assault to come forward and tell their story. Whether it’s telling a family member, a friend, or law enforcement about their abuse, there are fears that their claims will not be taken seriously, or they’ll be ignored, or that they – the victim – will somehow be blamed. Those fears cause survivors to remain silent for months, years, or even a lifetime.
Unfortunately the FBI’s mishandling of this case has done nothing to convince survivors that their trauma will be treated with the urgency and care it deserves. When survivors make the difficult decision to come forward, they should be treated with dignity and respect. That’s the bare minimum, and it didn’t happen here.
If allegations raised by well-known, world-class athletes are not taken seriously by the FBI, what hope do other victims of sexual assault have? If this monster was able to continue harming these women and girls after his victims first went to the FBI, how many other abusers have escaped justice? Again, if the FBI did so little in the investigation involving world-class athletes, what hope can an average American have? What faith can they have in the system?
I wrote a letter to Inspector General Horowitz last summer urging him to release his report, which back then was overdue, so we can begin to answer some of these questions. I’m disappointed it took more than a year after that letter was sent for the report to be finally released, and it’s fair to say that his report has left us with many questions.
There were, obviously, catastrophic failures at multiple levels of law enforcement, which resulted in direct harm of these young women. The FBI had two separate opportunities to do its job, and it failed. In fact, it was a university police department that finally did a real investigation, one that finally brought Nassar to justice.
I’ve always believed that the FBI should be the gold standard for law enforcement, and I believe that by and large, it is. But instead, in examples like this, we see failure of ethics, failure of competence, and dishonesty.
I’m eager to ask Inspector General Horowitz and Director Wray about the grave missteps made by the FBI and more importantly, to understand the changes they will be implementing to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.
We must demand real change and real accountability, and we’ll not be satisfied by platitudes and vague promises about improved performance. This nation must be a place where when victims speak, they are not ignored, and it must be a place where those who commit crimes like Larry Nassar are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And the FBI must demonstrate, as they have not attempted to do before, that they understand their failures, they will learn from them, and do better.
And Mr. Chairman, I just want to recognize the leadership of Senator Moran, who will be testifying here, and Senator Blumenthal, on the part of the Commerce Committee in spearheading a lot of this investigation, urging us all to this point where we are today. Thank you.
I sent a letter in June of 2020 asking Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz to release his report on the FBI’s investigation of Larry Nassar and the Bureau’s lack of urgency with his case. You can view the letter here. You can view my response to the eventual release of the Inspector General’s report here.