FBI probe of Detroit politicians focuses on nonprofits, towing and campaign cash

Michigan GOP demands apology from Nessel over Weiser comments

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Republican Party is calling on Attorney General Dana Nessel to apologize for her Thursday comments regarding the party's chairman. 

The Plymouth Democrat on Thursday was calling for the University of Michigan Board of Regents to cooperate with her in an investigation of serial abuser Dr. Robert Anderson when she made the comments about Weiser, a longtime UM donor, university regent and a sexual abuse victim.

"The regents at the University of Michigan have my number, except for Ron Weiser," Nessel said. "I won't give him my number." 

Weiser came forward in March 2020 as one of hundreds who said they were molested by Anderson.

"As the only regent who was a victim of Dr. Anderson, Dana Nessel is the last person I would want to call to get justice," Weiser said Thursday. "She has politicized every inch of her office. Sexual abuse is not partisan, it's not political and I'm disappointed but not surprised by the attorney general's ridiculous comments today." 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is shown here on Oct. 23, 2020 in Northville.

Republican elected leaders followed Weiser's statement demanding Nessel apologize for her "unconscionable behavior" and a "disgrace to her office."

"She is the state’s top law enforcement official and should be trusted to faithfully and honestly deliver justice to all victims of sexual assault," said the group led by Weiser's co-chair Meshawn Maddock.

Michigan Rising Action, a conservative West Michigan group, also criticized Nessel's comments and called on Nessel to apologize and "make clear to all survivors that no matter what their political views are, their stories will be heard and justice will be served.”

Nessel's office on Thursday stressed that it would review an investigation request from UM if it could secure the "necessary cooperation." But the office did not offer an apology.

"The department is available as a resource and source of support for any victim, including Mr. Weiser, should he wish to report abuse," Nessel spokeswoman  Lynsey Mukomel said. 

Weiser himself apologized for comments he made about Nessel earlier this year when he referred to the attorney general, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as the "three witches" during a March GOP event. 

“Our job now is to soften up those three witches and make sure that when we have good candidates to run against them, that they are ready for the burning at the stake,” Weiser said at one point during the event. "And maybe, the press heard that, too."

Nessel's Thursday comments were prompted by a question at a press conference regarding her interest in conducting an investigation into Anderson's behavior and who might have known about it. 

Former UM football coach Bo Schembechler's son, Matthew, said Wednesday that he was one of 850 people who have come forward as being molested by Anderson. Matt Schembechler, who was 10 at the time of the incident, said he told his father about the incident but the football coach did nothing to stop it.

Nessel noted that, with most of the suspects or people who knew about the allegations now deceased, a criminal investigation likely wouldn’t yield evidence that could be used in a prosecution.

The attorney general said her experience at Michigan State University, where the board withheld about 6,000 documents related to serial molester Larry Nassar under attorney-client privilege, has made her hesitant to conduct the same review at UM without a commitment of fully transparency and cooperation from the Board of Regents. 

“When we say full cooperation that means full cooperation,” Nessel said. “…Unless and until we get that kind of commitment, I will tell you right now I won’t waste the resources of this office and I won’t waste the resources of the state in order to conduct what would be an incomplete, an inconclusive investigation.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com