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Capitol Hill Hearing Blasts The FBI For Mishandling Nassar Investigation

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Before we begin our next conversation, I want to note that for the next four minutes or so, we're going to be discussing the topic of sexual abuse. The testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday was angry and anguished. Four USA Gymnastics athletes testified about how they felt betrayed by law enforcement, including the FBI. They came forward years ago and explained in painful detail how they were abused by the former doctor for Team USA and convicted sex offender, Larry Nassar. Simone Biles was among the women who told Congress that it felt as if no one in authority listened.

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SIMONE BILES: To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.

MARTINEZ: We're joined by Marisa Kwiatkowski. She's an investigative journalist for USA Today. She began covering the abuse scandal years ago at The Indianapolis Star. You've covered this story for years now. Listening to the testimony, what stood out to you?

MARISA KWIATKOWSKI: What lawmakers heard yesterday was the continued frustration of survivors who felt their allegations against Larry Nassar had not been taken seriously enough. They've been calling for change and calling for accountability for the failures of USA Gymnastics, of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and of the FBI.

MARTINEZ: Former Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, in her testimony, directly blamed the FBI for not acting fast enough to stop Nassar. Here's what she said.

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MCKAYLA MARONEY: What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?

MARTINEZ: Marisa, how's the FBI and its the director, Christopher Wray, who also testified responding, to this?

KWIATKOWSKI: FBI Director Christopher Wray, who I think it's important to note was not the director at the time that the FBI had initially received these allegations, apologized yesterday to the survivors and said he was deeply and profoundly sorry for the abuse that they had experienced and for the failures of people who had a chance to stop Nassar back in 2015 and didn't do so. And he said that it never should have happened and that he's doing everything in his power and the FBI is doing everything in their power to make sure it never happens again.

MARTINEZ: And yesterday's hearing was part of a congressional effort to hold the FBI accountable. How are lawmakers trying to do that?

KWIATKOWSKI: Lawmakers have been calling for change, and specifically both during and after the hearing, they called for a criminal investigation into those who handled these allegations inappropriately, according to the inspector general's report.

MARTINEZ: You know, at the end of all this, survivors and their families are just looking for answers. What's it going to take to get those answers?

KWIATKOWSKI: During the testimony yesterday, Aly Raisman had called for independent investigation going back decades, both of USA Gymnastics, of the FBI and of others. And she said, you know, they could speculate as to the reasons for some things. But when the facts are obtainable and the stakes are so high, she thinks that they should be doing everything they can.

MARTINEZ: That's USA Today investigative journalist Marisa Kwiatkowski. Thank you very much.

KWIATKOWSKI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.