Michigan State Spent $500,000 Tracking Nassar Victims & Journalists

Michigan State University paid a public-relations firm upwards of $500,000 to keep track of and report on the social media activity of former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar‘s victims and certain journalists covering the case, reports the Lansing State Journal.

According to the report, Michigan State paid Weber Shandwick, a New York-based public-relations company, 517,343 for more than 1,440 hours of work monitoring social media in the month of January. Weber Shandwick assigned 18 employees with hourly rates ranging from $200 to $600 per hour to monitor the assignment. Of those 18, three billed MSU for more than $50,000, one charged $96,900, and another $120,893 for their work. As Michigan State is a public university, all documents are public record.

Michigan State’s Office of Communication and Brand Strategy simultaneously kept tabs on the social media activities of certain high-profile victims as well as news agencies and journalists reporting on the case. Per the report, “Summaries of articles and social media activity, including how much attention certain tweets or stories were getting online, were emailed to other MSU spokespeople or to top university officials. Later, once Weber Shandwick took over, emails were sent to MSU’s outside attorneys for the lawsuits related to Nassar,” writes the Journal.

On the morning of January 16th, the first day of Nassar’s sentencing, a Weber Shandwick employee emailed the University regarding the role the victims played influencing public opinion. The employee said, “Conversation around the upcoming sentencing and MSU’s role in the matter continues to be driven by victims of Nassar, their families and regional journalists,” according to the Journal.

Rundowns of the previous day’s media coverage were also sent to former MSU President Lou Anna Simon, the members of the Board of Trustees, and the university’s in-house attorneys, among others.

The Journal writes that “The firm detailed local and national coverage, and how much engagement (retweets and likes) tweets from victims, celebrities or journalists were getting.”

Emails from Weber Shandwick employees also mention certain journalists by name, including reporters from BuzzFeed, The Detroit News, Michigan Radio, the Huffington Post, ABC News, USA Today, The Guardian, and ESPN, among others. Additionally, Weber Shandwick notified MSU of which celebrities had voiced their support for the victims of Nassar, including Kristen Bell, a Michigan native herself, and Chrissy Teigen.

On January 25, the day after Nassar was sentenced, a Weber Shandwick employee emailed MSU communications informing them that social media conversation had increased by 17 times in the past 24 hours, with 381,000 mentions of MSU and Nassar together.

Nassar’s former boss, William Strampel, has also resigned from MSU following charges of misconduct in office, sexual assault, and two counts of willful neglect of duty.

Currently, more than 250 victims of Nassar are suing Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics in federal court, claiming USA Gymnastics did not do enough to protect them. One former swimmer, Marie Anderson, testified that she was abused by Nassar when she was 15 under the guise of “pelvic adjustments” to treat a lower back injury.

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I mean, we know MSU has the worst team, worst coaches, and worst facilities in the B1G, but cmon. You don’t have to keep poking the bear “aka” the University…


I respectfully disagree and would argue to, metaphorically, burn it to the ground.

Joel Lin

That Lansing State Journal article is plainly insipid. MSU has already been billed $9mm by at least 2 very expensive NY law firms. $1,100 an hour lawyers…this is going to be so much worse than the Penn State scandal in terms of monetary damages. In the end this could easily cost MSU & Michigan taxpayers over $1bn.


This article isn’t about the money, although spending that amount of money on something so supercilious (bordering on downright creepy) is worth pointing out.

This is about MSU just not getting it.

Sum Ting Wong

I read a note saying the Oesteopathic Medicins Prof was arrested on child porn but that seemed to disappear so not likely so .
These are the reasons I think international high level sports will not survive . Not only are there continual push to permanent frozen wars but the quality of personnel in sports admins is decrepit .
Ive been tuning out for several years but get dragged back by the Crash Spectacle .

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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