Last week, it was hard to keep up with the news. The TV/newspaper universe provided lots of fodder for the nation’s anger and argument society.
Here are a few highlights.
We saw COVID-19 overwhelm our hospitals, shook our heads as our health care professionals refused to accept a proven vaccine, and wondered as irate parents accused school boards of child abuse because of mask/vaccine mandates.
We explored hot stories stemming from the latest book from the Bobs – Woodward and Costa – where they allege the former president was a bit unhinged after he lost, and what top government officials did to counter his alleged ire.
We could pull up a chair, open a cold one and debate tax policy, the filibuster, civilian space flight, or better yet, whether the Jan. 6 takeover of the U.S. Capitol was an insurrection, an attempted coup, or just a few good old boys who got a little bit excited and went too far after their candidate lost.
But the story that got my attention featured four of the nation's favorite little girls whose cries for help were ignored by all, including the almighty FBI, until a team of Midwestern reporters sat down and listened to what they were saying.
Suddenly, the story was in the papers and officials got in a huff. Then, for six years, the story was mostly swept under the rug as we turned our attention to the latest bloody shooting, terrible war, or celebrity scandal.
I will admit, I belong to the “Gymnastics Dad’s Club,” fathers who held their breath while watching their daughters flip and twist, balance and swing, and do face plants on a padded mat.
These little girls courageously tried and failed and fell and slipped and started over, and fell once again. They wanted to be Olympic champs, but most of them didn’t make it.
We all marveled at those who did, little girls named Olga and Nadia and Mary Lou. We held our breath as they made the impossible look ordinary and wonderful.
We, those of us in the dad’s club, knew they ignored painful knees, busted toes, hips that hurt, noggin knocks, and a concussion or three, as they mastered their craft and showed off for the world. But we didn’t know the whole story. We didn’t know there was a doctor hiding in the wings who was molesting these little girls. And the little girls were afraid to tell their coaches and even their mothers.
When they got older, some of them gathered their courage and blew the whistle. They called the FBI. And the FBI, those celebrated TV crime busters who bring down bad guys by the score, fight spies and right wrongs, just ignored the gymnasts. They didn’t even write a report.
Why? Well, surprise, the agent in charge of that FBI field office was thinking of retiring and thought he might like to have a cushy job as security chief for the U.S. Olympic Committee. He denied this, but the FBI Inspector General found otherwise.
So, the FBI ignored the little girl's cry for help.
That is until a group of reporters sat down with the little girls and listened. They asked questions of coaches, officials and the FBI. And they wrote stories.
Over the years, Larry Nassar, the doctor, was disgraced and sent to jail. U.S. Gymnastics Association officials exited stage right and Olympic officials pretended they didn’t know what was going on under their noses.
Last week, six years after we learned of the abuse, four of those little girl gymnasts, now grown up, told their stories and shed tears before a congressional committee and a national TV audience. The most skilled gymnast of them all, Simone Biles, cried as she said she first learned of the investigation when she read about it in the newspaper.
Christopher Wray, the FBI director, listened too and said he was sorry. He said the FBI agents "betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people" and "failed to protect young women and girls from abuse.”
"I don't have a good explanation for you," Wray testified, noting he felt "heartsick and furious" when he learned of the FBI's failures in the Nassar investigation. “It is utterly jarring to me. It is totally inconsistent with what we train our people on and totally inconsistent from what I see from the hundreds of agents that work these cases every day,” he said.
So what happened to the agents who ignored the cries of the little girls and lied about it? They were prosecuted, right? Wrong. One agent lost his job and his supervisor was allowed to retire and collect his pension.
And the FBI left our little girls with nightmares.