Michigan State University interim president resigns after comments about Nassar victims

The interim president of Michigan State University resigned Wednesday amid criticism of remarks he made last week about victims of sexual abuse by ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar.

In an 11-page resignation letter, John Engler said he would step down effective Jan. 23. The letter made no mention of the outcry over his comments and instead listed what Engler considered to be his accomplishments in just under one year of service, describing the university as a "dramatically better, stronger institution."

Engler submitted his resignation the day before a special meeting of the university's board of trustees was to convene to discuss his future. Board of Trustees Chair Dianne Byrum confirmed on Twitter that she had received Engler's resignation letter and said it "will be discussed and acted upon at the BOT meeting [Thursday] morning."

In a Jan. 11 editorial board meeting with The Detroit News, Engler said women sexually assaulted by Nassar have been in the "spotlight" and were "still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition."

Nassar, who molested hundreds of girls and women while employed at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, is now serving decades-long prison sentences for sexually assaulting patients and possessing child pornography. The university fired Nassar in 2016, two years after he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation.

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Engler was hired as interim president in February of last year to replace Lou Anna Simon, who resigned over the fallout from the Nassar scandal and was charged in November with two felony counts of lying to police about the case. After Engler's hiring, Michigan State agreed to a $500 million settlement with 332 women and girls who said they were sexually assaulted by Nassar. Future claims, of which Engler said 172 were under consideration, are to be covered by $75 million of that sum.

"We are really thinking about that 172," Engler told the Detriot News last week. "The people who got the $425 million are probably OK."

Larry Nassar is accused of molesting hundreds of women as far back as 1992.

Larry Nassar is accused of molesting hundreds of women as far back as 1992. (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In April, Engler told another university official in emails that Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to go public with her accusations about Nassar, was probably getting a "kickback" from her attorney.

Denhollander told The Associated Press on Wednesday it "was no secret" who Engler was and how he operated. The former board -- five members remain and three are gone -- picked Engler "for a reason," she said, and it "needs to take responsibility for what they did."

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Her biggest concern with Engler's tenure has been what he has "communicated about abuse," Denhollander said. "What he has communicated is that survivors who speak up will be attacked and blamed and shamed, that those who push for change are going to be accused of enjoying the spotlight, that they will be lied about."

The current board has five Democrats, two Republicans and an appointee who was named last month by then-Gov. Rick Snyder. The board's makeup became more Democratic in the November election.

A special prosecutor appointed by Michigan's then-attorney general to investigate Michigan State's handling of Nassar accused the university last month of stonewalling his probe. Bill Forsyth released a report that said the school fought the release of certain relevant documents and released others that were heavily redacted or irrelevant.

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"Their biggest concern was the reputation of the university," Forsyth said at a news conference.

Denhollander said Wednesday that Michigan State, including the board, should waive attorney-client privilege and release documents to law enforcement. She also renewed her call for MSU to conduct a truly independent investigation of its actions.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.