WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — U.S. gymnastics stars including Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney delivered emotional testimonies before Congress Wednesday, demanding action after they say the FBI failed to take their reports of sexual abuse seriously.
Former sports doctor Larry Nassar is serving long prison sentences in a federal child pornography case and abuse cases out of two Michigan counties.
“The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us,” Biles said.
A federal watchdog said in July that the FBI sat on information about Nassar’s abuse for 15 months. Lawmakers say that as a result, at least 70 more girls were assaulted.
“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar,” Biles said, wiping away tears, “but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetuated his abuse.”
Biles, Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman told senators the FBI turned a blind eye when they reported their abuse as early as 2015. The watchdog says Maroney’s testimony to the FBI was also falsified.
“Why are public servants whose job is to protect getting away with this?” Maroney demanded. “This is not justice.”
Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said the FBI must be held accountable, with Durbin saying the women painted “a shocking picture of FBI dereliction of duty and gross incompetence.:
“Some may be tempted to minimize this misconduct as the fault of a few bad apples. Make no mistake: egregious failures like this do not arise out of nowhere. They are enabled by systematic organizational failures,” Durbin continued.
“I do not know a human being that I would not expect to report if someone told them they were being abused,” Moran said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray says the specific agent responsible for the failure was fired and another retired. He promised the agency is adopting new policies.
“It never should have happened,” he said. “My entire senior leadership team are going to make damn sure everyone at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail.”
The U.S. Department of Justice was also invited to testify at the hearing but declined. Senators joined survivors afterward in a press conference, promising hearings will continue.