Olympic gymnasts testifying before Congress in Washington on Sept. 15 criticized how FBI agents dealt with allegations against Larry Nassar, a Team USA doctor who was later convicted of sexually assaulting some of the girls he was tasked with treating.
“Not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” McKayla Maroney, one of the gymnasts, said in her opening statement.
“The survivors of Larry Nassar have a right to know why their well-being was placed in jeopardy by these individuals who chose not to do their jobs,” added Maggie Nichols, another gymnast.
The Department of Justice’s watchdog, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, concluded in July that the FBI mishandled allegations against Nassar.
Senior officials in the bureau failed to respond to the claims “with the urgency that the allegations required” and did not take steps to try to “mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar,” Horowitz’s report said.
Additionally, when the FBI’s handling of the matter came under scrutiny in 2017 and 2018, officials declined to take responsibility, instead offering “incomplete and inaccurate information to make it appear that they had been diligent in responding to the sexual abuse allegations.”
Maroney said she was shocked when she read the report.
“They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others,” she told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Maroney recounted being given a sleeping pill by Nassar in 2015 in Tokyo and lying naked, unable to move, while he molested her for hours.
She told the story to an FBI agent, who she said didn’t respond for a period of time before asking, “Is that all?”
“Those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me. To have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who are supposed to protect me, just to feel like my abuse was not enough,” she said.
The gymnasts expressed disbelief that the FBI agents who, according to the inspector general, made false statements and botched the probe into Nassar have faced no recourse.
The FBI hasn’t challenged the inspector general’s report. The bureau said in a statement after its release that “the actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization,” adding that the bureau “has taken affirmative steps to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust no longer work FBI matters.”
Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray told the panel that criminal referrals of FBI officials were made to government prosecutors and that the prosecutors declined to prosecute the officials.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee’s chairman, called the decision “outrageous” and said the Department of Justice refused to explain to him the reasoning behind the nonprosecution.
Wray said changes have been made at the FBI in light of what happened, including making agents who are handling similar cases document allegations that are reported to them.
Wray apologized to the gymnasts who testified and said he was “especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster … and failed,” adding that “we are doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”