Michigan State University Trustee Joel Ferguson – under heavy criticism for comments on a local radio show – issued a statement late Tuesday evening apologizing for the comments.
"Joel Ferguson deeply regrets the inadvertent comment he made on a local radio program that trivialized the experience of the victims of Larry Nassar," a statement sent to the Free Press by his spokeswoman, Kelly Rossman-McKinney, who is not representing MSU or the board. "He recognizes the suffering of these young women and had intended to refer to it as ‘the Nassar tragedy'.
"Mr. Ferguson deeply regrets his comment and apologizes to those he offended."
The move came after Ferguson was lambasted on social media after the Free Press published a transcript of his Monday interview on a Lansing radio show.
Ferguson said in a radio interview this week that many major donors and alumni have expressed support for President Lou Anna Simon and the board in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.
Pressure is mounting on MSU as Nassar's sentencing hearing completes Day 6 with more than 140 women expected to give victim-impact statements against the former MSU doctor who's pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Simon is under intense pressure to resign, with calls to do so coming from students, some faculty members and at least one board member.
In the radio interview, Ferguson said that wasn't going to occur.
"That will not happen. Period," Ferguson said on "Staudt on Sports," a radio program on WVFN-AM (730). "She’s a fighter. Her overall, what she’s done for this university, she’s not going to get ran out of there by what somebody else did.
"I’ve been on the board for 30 years and she by far is the best president we’ve ever had."
Ferguson insists the scandal won't tarnish Simon's legacy as university president, that it's "wrong" to even talk about the possibility of Simon retiring, and is confident that the attorney-general investigation into MSU will find its "senior people are not complicit in what this pervert did."
"I mean, when you go to the basketball game, you walk into the new Breslin, and the person who hustled and got all those major donors to give money was Lou Anna Simon," Ferguson said. "There’s just so many things that make up being president at a university that keeps everything moving and everything right with the deans, everything at a school where we have a waiting list of students who want to come."
Ferguson also said the board has had many major donors and alumni send communications expressing support for Simon and what the trustees are trying to do.
"The young ladies who have been wronged by this person, I think that … they will ... you can never use money to completely make over people’s pain and suffering, but there’s going to be something happening in their favor," he said. "I think that when people find out that this person was on an island by himself, I think they’ll move on, we’ll keep the university moving and I think with the president, we have. She’ll continue to do a great job."
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