A former Republican governor of Michigan took ESPN to task Saturday during a fiery exchange with a reporter for the liberal-leaning sports network over recent sexual misconduct allegations involving Michigan State University.
“Oh, I think ESPN is far worse than many companies in America today” regarding sexual misconduct, John Engler said, the Detroit Free Press reported.
“Look at the sexual assaults you guys are dealing with as a company. It’s pretty serious. In many ways, their company is one of the worst offenders in the nation.
“So we have a sexual assault challenge in America today. But for Michigan State, we’re dealing with it on our campus.”
Engler, who served as Michigan’s governor from 1991 to 2003, was recently appointed interim president of Michigan State following the university’s ties to the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal, which led to the departures of the school’s president and athletic director.
As Engler noted Saturday, the self-described “worldwide leader in sports” has a lengthy history of its employees being accused of sexual misconduct.
Most recently, former ESPN employee Adrienne Lawrence alleged in a lawsuit that the network has a culture of sexual harassment that includes retaliation against women who raise objections.
“ESPN is, and always has been, a company rife with misogyny,” the lawsuit alleges, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune.
In response to a December Boston Globe story about sexual misconduct allegations at ESPN, the network said that it takes sexual harassment issues seriously, pointing to the fact that it had suspended radio hosts Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis after they were accused of sexually harassing an employee at NFL Network.
But in making his case, Engler did not dismiss the problems that Michigan State is dealing with, the Free Press reported.
“I think Michigan State, like lots of universities, has many challenges,” Engler said. “Michigan State alone had Nassar. He was not a doctor at any other campus. And so that is something that has caused us great pain and is a great challenge for us and the 225-250 women who filed litigation. That’s a very serious issue.
“But when you talk about sexual assault on campus, Title IX cases, then that’s something we’re dealing with. And I think when we’re finished with the changes we’re making, we’re going to be very proud of the campus we’ve got, the security that we have and the record that we set.”
Fox News’ Frank Miles and Caleb Parke contributed to this story.