Four current and former members of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team testified this week before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and asked them to hold the FBI accountable for its botched investigation of Larry Nasser, the team doctor who sexually abused hundreds of gymnasts.
The gymnasts, including Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney, stated that FBI agents both delayed and lied when investigating Nasser. The investigation didn’t begin until more than a year after the FBI was first contacted. Nasser was eventually charged and pled guilty on November 22, 2017, to 7 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving girls aged 15 and under, along with an additional 3 counts pertaining to girls aged 16 and under.
Simone Biles, 24, also blamed the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for failing to address the allegations against Nasser. Fighting back tears as she delivered her opening statement, Biles told the committee, “I don’t want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete, or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured before, during, and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nasser abuse. We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at the FBI, USAG, or USOPC did what was necessary to protect us.”
Maroney, 25, who was 13 years old when Nasser began molesting her, testified,
“After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, 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…. This was very clear, cookie-cutter pedophilia and abuse. And this is important because I told the FBI all of this and they chose to falsify my report and to not only minimize my abuse but silence me yet again…. USA gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic committee were working together to conceal that Larry Nasser was a predator. These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nasser.”
The Wednesday hearing was part of a congressional investigation to hold the FBI accountable after the agency allowed delays that resulted in the now-imprisoned Nasser continuing to abuse other young gymnasts. FBI Director Christopher Wray blasted his own agents who failed to “respond appropriately,” including a supervisory FBI agent who failed to properly investigate the case and later lied about it.
An investigation led by the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that when the FBI’s investigation, based out of their Indianapolis field office, came under scrutiny, officials did not take responsibility and provided misleading and inaccurate information to internal FBI inquiries to suggest the appearance of diligence in their investigation of the Nasser case.
This is a truly tragic example of negligence by the FBI. What was the FBI doing and why were they not stepping in to stop this egregious and ongoing crime against children? It shows the skewed priorities of the nation’s highest law enforcement agency. The FBI engages in political witch hunts but we’ve now learned that it doesn’t take child abuse seriously. What about when the FBI failed to act on a tip about future mass murderer and school shooter Nikolas Cruz? Or perhaps its failure regarding the Fort Hood shooter? Of course, we cannot expect the FBI to stop every threat, but we can expect them to at least focus on and look into credible threats.
What the U.S. gymnasts faced was not just a credible threat. Nasser abused hundreds of girls, and the FBI knew about it — and they ignored it. The FBI has lost the trust of the American people, and with good reason. Why the negligence? Who benefited from the failure to take this situation seriously? Maroney told the FBI what was going on. She shared her traumatic experience with people she thought she could trust in order to stop this from happening again to some other innocent child, but the FBI for whatever reason, decided not to act on it — and then misreported her allegations. And despite FBI Director Wray’s angry words, his only action has been to fire one agent.
This cannot be swept under the rug. There must be answers provided and reforms made. The American people — especially America’s children — deserve better protection by those who have sworn to do the protecting. If this heart-wrenching story doesn’t cause Congress to finally implement much-needed reforms at the FBI, then likely nothing will.