Gaslighting : Believed It's time to hear from Larry, and we've got the tape. In 2014, the doctor was interviewed by a police detective after another patient reported him for sexual assault. You'll hear for yourself how Larry lies, manipulates and convinces police to believe him instead of the victim.
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Hey, it's Lindsey. Everything in this series will make a lot more sense if you start with Episode 1. Also, a warning, we're going to talk about sexual assault in explicit terms. And there's some swearing.


Dr. Suzanne Thomashow is a pediatrician, so she knows what to do when her daughters get sick. Back in 2014, her oldest, Amanda, is in grad school when an old cheerleading injury starts flaring up. So Suzanne recommends a doctor she had known since med school.

SUZANNE THOMASHOW: And I said, well, Amanda, I've got the perfect person for you to go see, Dr. Nassar.

WELLS: Suzanne is on her way home from work when she gets a call from Amanda. Amanda sounds frantic. She's just gotten out of her appointment with Larry, tells Suzanne what happened.

S. THOMASHOW: I think my words were, that's disgusting. I was - I was - it was repulsive. I could not fathom what had just happened and what she was telling me. It was like, what? He did what to you? And she repeated it to me a couple of times. And I said, well, that's just not OK. It's not OK.

WELLS: We've heard this before. It's not OK. Amanda is going to tell you her story. In some ways, it will be a familiar one. But in this episode, you will also hear Larry's side of the story in his own words because this time, we have the tape. I'm Kate Wells.

SMITH: And I'm Lindsey Smith. This is BELIEVED.


WELLS: In the last couple of episodes, you heard how Larry abused a young girl and a teenager. Amanda is different. She's an adult, wants to be a doctor like her mom. She's funny, but she's also got this sense of moral responsibility. If something is wrong, she wants to fix it. You're going to hear from Amanda in a few minutes. For now, just know there are two chapters to her story. And the first starts with the Michigan State University Police.


VALERIE O'BRIEN: I'm Valerie. Nice to meet you.

WELLS: After Amanda complains about Larry, a detective asks him to come in for a chat.


O'BRIEN: We're going to go right in here.


SMITH: We got the tape of this police interview through a public information request. It's dated May 29, 2014.


O'BRIEN: So I'm Valerie O'Brien. I'm a lieutenant back in our detective bureau.

SMITH: Larry Nassar is inside the police department at Michigan State University. Detective Valerie O'Brien walks him into a bland, gray interview room.


NASSAR: Is it OK if I turn on my computer? It takes awhile to load up.

O'BRIEN: Oh, yeah, not a problem.

SMITH: She apologizes. It's a little cramped.


O'BRIEN: If at any time you feel you want to get the heck out of here, you can get out, walk out. My feelings won't be hurt, OK?


O'BRIEN: So I guess what I'm looking for...

WELLS: Larry tells us Detective O'Brien he has been waiting for her call. The university put him on leave after Amanda's complaint. He seems relieved to be here, like he is finally getting a chance to sort out a terrible misunderstanding.


NASSAR: What I was told was that - and - was that the patient was concerned that I was inappropriately touching her and didn't understand why. And that's - those are two things that confuse me because I - I - I do this on a regular basis.


NASSAR: This is a treatment that I...

WELLS: As you hear Larry describe his version of what happened on that grainy police video, we're going to weave in the other version, Amanda's, as she told it to us.

AMANDA THOMASHOW: It was supposed to be a quick appointment.

WELLS: We want you to hear Larry and Amanda's stories side by side.


NASSAR: Thirty minutes is the quickest appointment that you're going to have with me.

A. THOMASHOW: But it was, like, a two-hour, three-hour appointment.


NASSAR: It's 30 to 60 minutes - OK? - because I do a lot of hands-on. And I do a lot of mentoring, you know, I do a lot of talking.

WELLS: Listening this way, you can hear for yourself how Larry gets people to believe him, not Amanda - how he constructs an alternate reality where he's not abusing these girls; he's healing them.


NASSAR: To be able to do this stuff and to be able to do this stuff for so long, if you don't have patient confidence and patient trust, you'd have had my ass in here how many times?

O'BRIEN: Right, right.

NASSAR: OK? OK, especially when I'm doing this on 10-year-olds, 12-year-olds - OK? - with their parents there. But I'm obviously doing a doggone good job of explaining things - OK? - because - what?

SMITH: Kate and I are still here with you. But we are going to let this tape play out for a while.

A. THOMASHOW: He remembered me from my high school appointment. And he knew my mom. So we kind of, like, weirdly caught up.


NASSAR: You know, I - right now, I couldn't even tell you what she looks like, OK? I mean, like...

O'BRIEN: OK, but you know who we're referring to, obviously.

NASSAR: I don't even know her first name.


SMITH: That's Detective Val O'Brien.


NASSAR: I can't even recall her first name, OK?

A. THOMASHOW: I told him about the diagnosis he'd given me, that my arches were too high. And he took my foot and put it on his leg and, like, examined it and then, like, pulled it - like, pulled it closer. And, like, it was just, like, so uncomfortably close to his groin. I was just like, this is weird.


NASSAR: Was I too involved talking to her? Did I get into her space? Not phys...

O'BRIEN: No, I hear you.

NASSAR: You see what I'm saying?

O'BRIEN: I know what you mean, yeah.

A. THOMASHOW: And there was this moment where I was like, what's going on? And I looked up at the resident 'cause she was across the room. And we're both kind of like, this is weird. But she was there. And then, to the resident, he's like, oh, have you ever seen a - I don't know, some weird injury - well, like, there's one going on down the hall. We're just going to finish up in here if you want to go check it out.


O'BRIEN: So do you remember in this specific incident, like, when the resident left or was in there?

NASSAR: I don't remember, you know, but...

A. THOMASHOW: I was - I was scared. But he was Larry Nassar, the, like, Olympic doctor. So she left the room. And then he - first he wanted to start on my shoulder, which is when he put his hand and, like, massaged one of my breasts. And he told me that my boyfriend needed to give me better massages.


NASSAR: If she said I was massaging her, it would have been like, does that feel better there? Does that feel better there? Take a deep breath.

A. THOMASHOW: And then I told him that he wasn't helping. And I kind of, like, pushed his hand off of me and was like, you know, this isn't why I'm here - because his hand was, like, right on my boob.


NASSAR: If you touch someone wrong, they should tighten up. If you touch someone, you know - this is what I try too, is like, if you do something that's inappropriate, their body - you - their body reflexively is going to respond. And I didn't sense anything like that.

A. THOMASHOW: And then he had me lay down on my stomach for the back manipulation. Then he, like, went and got some lotion and, like, started at the top of my back and kind of, like, worked his way down and then moved my pants down, like, to expose my butt crack. And I - it was weird, but he was, like, just working on my back. And then he, like, slit his hand in between my butt cheeks and, like, started, like - like circling around my - like, my vagina opening.


NASSAR: I tell people the - the touch is a personal thing. But there's a difference between palpation and caressing. You know what I mean? There's a total different - like, I tell a story. And this is a true story about when I was dating in medical school. And I was - the reason why I went to DO (ph) school was for the hands-on stuff. And it ended shortly thereafter because we'd be intimate together, and she'd say, you're palpating again - because I realized, but I can fix this. (Laughter) You know what I mean?

O'BRIEN: Right.

NASSAR: And so I was like - you know, so I - I was more in tune. And that's how I've made my reputation is - very in-tune to the person's body.

A. THOMASHOW: And I was like, OK, this seems really weird. This seems really inappropriate. He's under my underwear. There's nobody else in the room. He's not even wearing gloves - like, still want to give him the benefit of the doubt. And then I had this thought, wow, like, what he's doing right now could literally turn somebody on. And I was like, oh, no, this is not good. This is - this is appropriate.


O'BRIEN: So what she says, that your fingers went by her vagina hole and that she felt, again, that that was a massaging...

NASSAR: Right, OK.

O'BRIEN: ...Nature and that she felt that that had went on for too long and that you hadn't explained it to her prior to you doing it.

NASSAR: Was I talking to her during the time, though, like I normally do?

O'BRIEN: So she says, yes, again, he said, how does this feel?

NASSAR: Right, does this feel better?

O'BRIEN: Does this feel better?

NASSAR: Right.

O'BRIEN: And she says that initially she said, yes.


O'BRIEN: ...It does feel better. So you continue.

NASSAR: Right.

O'BRIEN: And then she says that at some point that she says that she felt that it was hurting. So she says, hey, that hurts; can you stop? And then you said - you stopped at that time again.

NASSAR: OK. That's what I was saying, that it's a - it's an interaction. And I don't - I don't know how to say this, but that's - that would be appropriate.

A. THOMASHOW: I told him he was hurting me. I told him to stop. And he told me he was almost done. And then I just kind of, like, pushed him off of me.


O'BRIEN: So right now what the report is titled, just so you know, is a sexual assault.

NASSAR: Right.

O'BRIEN: Because that is - like you said, that is how she's feeling. That is what she think happened. That's her perception on things.

NASSAR: OK. That's OK. I understand her perception.

O'BRIEN: Yep, and so...

NASSAR: I totally - you can obviously see how she could feel that way. I make - you can see the videos. I'm such - I have a whole website of education - you know what I mean? - gymnastics doctor Facebook, gymnastics doctor YouTube, I'm not saying I didn't touch her there. I purpose - I purposefully touched her there.

SMITH: Let's stop a minute - just want to digest this a bit.

WELLS: Larry's genius in this police interview - this two-and-a-half-hour police interview - is that he flips the script. You've seen "Law And Order." The perp is supposed to deny everything.

SMITH: Larry doesn't do that. He says, of course I touched her breast. Of course I touched her vagina.

WELLS: It's not sexual. It's medical. This poor girl is confused.

SMITH: But Amanda says she remembers her appointment pretty clearly. And she definitely does not feel confused about seeing Larry with an erection.

A. THOMASHOW: And I could tell that he was aroused because - yeah, he had a boner, so. And then he faced the corner of the room, kind of like - was, like, messing with his hands and then came back down, sat down, like, at the computer, was like, we're going to have to do that more. Like, when can you come in for a follow-up? He wanted to see me again right away.

It was, like, the weirdest thing. Like, he was acting like it didn't just happen, like I didn't actually just catch him molesting - like, sexually assaulting me, trying to - he was about to insert his fingers into me when I pushed him off of me. He just acted like nothing he did was wrong, like it was totally fine. And he even told me, you know, it's OK if you're - if you're worried about being on your period. I can work around that. And then his computer froze. And I was like, it's fine. I don't - I'll call back.

Like, he just kept on asking me, like, well, what about this day, what about that day? Throwing out all the options, like - he finally got his computer to work. I agreed to an appointment that I had - knew there was no way I was coming to. I was just like, OK, fine, yeah, I'll take this appointment. And then I got the fuck out of there.

WELLS: Amanda says she told investigators about seeing Larry with an erection. But that detail isn't mentioned in the reports. We don't hear about it in the police interview either.

SMITH: What you can see during the interview is Larry whipping out his laptop, putting it on the table. He wants to show Detective O'Brien these videos on his computer. These are training videos he makes, the kind he puts up on his YouTube channel.


NASSAR: That's showing, like, hand placement.

SMITH: He says it'll help her understand what he's doing. See my hand, Larry asks. He points to the screen. It's right there, right in her inner rectal vaginal area.


NASSAR: ...Rectal vaginal area.

WELLS: We're going to play some more of this police tape. Listen as Detective O'Brien tries to nail Larry down on specifics.


O'BRIEN: So there's a couple different times that she's feeling that you sexually assaulted her throughout the examination.


O'BRIEN: She felt like - that you were massaging her breast, and that that was not part of the manipulation that you were doing.

WELLS: Larry dodges the question about this breast massage - just talks and talks and talks. He talks for so long, we just edited together a sample of it for you here.


NASSAR: Right. When you're working ribs - OK? - if you can't use the arm, if your shoulder - you know, it's like, OK...

Because I work with the crew athletes, I treated a lot of ribs...

It's like giving someone a mammogram.

You crack a back, you crack a neck. You know, the usual stuff.

I mean, so that's another area...

It's the rib cage. You know what I mean? You're going to be on the chest while...

OK? This is mild fascial techniques, but it's medical.

SMITH: This is Larry's playbook. He's hammering his credentials. He's bombarding you with words, lots of words, about his techniques.

WELLS: And the first time I watched this, I thought, if this guy were sitting across from me, flooding me with all this eagerness, expertise and what seems like empathy, I might buy it.


NASSAR: I don't know how else to say it, but I'm totally taken by surprise, but at the same time, feel like crap that someone would feel that I was doing something inappropriate to them.

O'BRIEN: Which is good to hear. It's - you know, it's good to hear that you feel bad that she feels that way.

NASSAR: Well, yeah - because I feel like this little deviant. You know what I mean? And that's not right. And that's not - if I did something wrong, do you know how quickly that would spread like wildfire across - I'd be out years ago.

O'BRIEN: Right. Right.

NASSAR: This is my 27th year with the team, you know what I mean - or whatever - since 1986 - I've been with the national team.

O'BRIEN: Yeah.

NASSAR: And I'm telling you, those kids - it would go - boom, chuck, boom, chuck, boom, chuck, chuck. You know what I mean? Like, no question about it.


SMITH: A little later in the interview, Detective O'Brien asks Larry, have you ever gotten complaints from other patients?


O'BRIEN: So there's never been any complaints that you're aware of prior to this one? And obviously, you're videotaping things here. You're doing...

NASSAR: Right. Well, this has been going on for - forever.

WELLS: We're going to stop the tape here again for just a second because this is a key question Larry just dodged. The truth is, yeah, lots of other patients have complained about Larry at this point.

SMITH: By 2014, girls have told coaches, their parents, therapists - even police - about Larry.

WELLS: Larry knows this. But Detective O'Brien does not. And a few minutes later, she asks him again, do patients tell you if they are uncomfortable?


O'BRIEN: Do they tell - do they verbalize that, or a combination thereof?

NASSAR: There has been a few times where that has been brought up, OK? And in each and every time, there was sexual abuse.

WELLS: Stop again. The tape is garbled there. But what Larry just said was, yes, there have been a few complaints. But - he's telling this detective - those girls had all been sexually abused in the past.



NASSAR: So that's what - that's what I'm saying, is when they're uncomfortable like that - it's - it's been three. There's been three cases. And all three of them were sexually abused.

WELLS: This is really weird. For one thing, how would Larry know if a patient had a history of sexual abuse? And why would that undermine a patient's complaint about him?

SMITH: Bottom line, he is admitting to the police, there have been three other girls who were uncomfortable during my treatments.

WELLS: But Detective O'Brien doesn't ask any follow-ups about these three other girls. Although the police report is partially redacted, nothing in that report - the police video or our own reporting - suggests anyone tried to track these three girls down.

SMITH: And then Larry suggests maybe Amanda - the woman who complained this time - maybe she also has a history of abuse.


NASSAR: Say, if for - God help me - she's never been, you know, sexually abused. But say if she was, how did - that's my job. Why - why would I miss that? Because then it's my job to bring help to that. You see what I'm saying? So where am I...

SMITH: Larry is beating himself up about the possibility that Amanda was previously sexually abused, and he missed it. That's my job, he says, to bring help to that.


NASSAR: Yes, she was victimized. Yes, I was victimized, myself - OK? - because hurting someone like that ain't right, OK? It's not right.


SMITH: Towards the end of the interview, Detective O'Brien starts reassuring Larry. She tells him, you should take a polygraph to prove your innocence.


O'BRIEN: It appears to me that you're telling me the truth - unless, you know, you're a great bullshitter, and you know, you pulled the curtains over my eyes this whole time. But in combination with what I'm seeing here today...

NASSAR: Right.

O'BRIEN: ...You know, I feel like you're telling me the truth. I mean, you're coming in here voluntarily. You're wanting to clear your name. And that's what a polygraph can be used for also, is to clear your name.

NASSAR: Whatever - whatever's needed.

O'BRIEN: So it's not...

WELLS: Larry never actually takes that polygraph. The test operator says it wouldn't work in this kind of case. What he does do is send police several follow-up emails with PowerPoints about his techniques. Yes, more PowerPoints, just like he used in Brianne's case. You heard about that in Episode 2.

SMITH: When the interview's over, Detective O'Brien thanks Larry for coming in so fast. No problem, Larry says, this has been therapeutic.


NASSAR: Thank you, though, for your time. Thank you for being you. You were - you were good. And just - it was comfortable to talk to you, you know what I mean?

O'BRIEN: Oh, good.

NASSAR: So I appreciate that, OK?

O'BRIEN: Thanks. So as soon as you can - that would be your first piece of homework - send me those videos.

NASSAR: Videos, yes.

SMITH: I'll send you the videos tonight, Larry says. Get your popcorn.


NASSAR: I'll send that tonight. Get some popcorn.

O'BRIEN: (Laughter) You know, from what you're showing me...

WELLS: Detective O'Brien tells him, hopefully, we will have this all wrapped up before we both go on vacation.

SMITH: They shake hands, and she walks him out.

WELLS: Police did bring this case to prosecutors for review. The prosecutor's office decided not to charge Larry.

SMITH: We tried to talk to Detective O'Brien. She still works for MSU Police, been promoted to assistant chief. But the police chief denied our requests, said the report has to speak for itself.


SMITH: So now Larry's talked his way out of two different police investigations - once in 2004 and now, again, in 2014.

WELLS: And it wasn't just police who let Larry go. Coming up after the break, Michigan State University investigates Amanda's complaint. It does not go well.


WELLS: At the beginning of this episode, we told you there were two chapters to Amanda's story. We have now reached the second chapter. In 2014, since Larry was a university employee, Amanda's report triggered a federally mandated Title IX investigation. Title IX investigations look into whether somebody broke school rules - in this case, Michigan State University's sexual misconduct policy. These investigations are done by school staff, not by police.

SMITH: Two months after she reported Larry, Amanda remembers a school official calling her in for a meeting. They want to show her the results of the Title IX investigation.

A. THOMASHOW: I mean, I was really nervous, but I thought that there was going to be some sort of trial or something. Like, that that's what the information was that I was going to get, was that, like, OK, we realize that this was sexual assault. Like, these are your options going forward.

WELLS: Amanda meets with a woman named Kristine Moore. She's the Title IX investigator. And as Amanda remembers it, Moore sits her down and pulls out a sheet of paper. She puts it on the table and points to a simple diagram of a human body.

A. THOMASHOW: And she was like, so this is where this manipulation happens. And I was like, oh, my gosh. You're explaining to me that I wasn't sexually assaulted. That's what you're doing. Like - she was like, and we talked to a lot of doctors. We talked to four women. I was like, oh, women. Well.


SMITH: There's something you should know about these four women Kristine Moore interviewed. They're not patients of Larry's. They're all doctors or athletic trainers. And they all work with him at MSU. One is even a close friend of Larry's.

A. THOMASHOW: But she had phrased it as she went to, you know - she talked to four female experts in the field. And they all said that what he did - well, it wasn't what they would do. It wasn't sexual and that I had not been sexually assaulted, that it was medically sound.

SMITH: Then Amanda says Kristine Moore hands her an information packet, an information packet on sexual assault. She tells Amanda there's a support group on campus for sexual assault victims. Talk about mixed messages.

WELLS: And then Amanda remembers more apologizing profusely.

A. THOMASHOW: I'm so sorry. There's nothing more I can do. And I told her, don't apologize to me. You're not sorry. And I slammed the door. And I walked out.


WELLS: What Amanda didn't know in 2014 is that MSU did not give her the full report. Kristine Moore kept one of her findings out of Amanda's copy. Sources shared that confidential section with us this year. In it, Moore sounds some major alarms.

SMITH: She says, Dr. Nassar's treatments are medically sound - those are her words - but what he's doing could get the school sued. Of course, in hindsight, we know MSU did get sued. This summer, the school settled for half a billion dollars. In that lawsuit, about 500 people say they were abused by Larry Nassar and that MSU could have stopped him sooner.

WELLS: But back in 2014, with Amanda's case, the Title IX investigator simply says that Larry is exposing patients to, quote, "unnecessary trauma." Moore's report concludes, the university must address the fact that one of our doctors is not getting patient consent. Patients may mistake his practice for, quote, "inappropriate sexual misconduct." We asked to talk with Kristine Moore. She declined our request. Since this 2014 investigation, she has been promoted. Kristine Moore is now one of the university's top lawyers.

SMITH: After less than three months on leave from his job at Michigan State University, Larry is allowed back to work.

WELLS: With conditions.

SMITH: Larry would have to follow basic medical guidelines - wear gloves, get consent, have a chaperone. We're talking really, really basic things that any doctor working with minors in their private areas should do.

WELLS: But despite all the warnings, nobody at MSU ever actually checks to see if Larry's doing any of these things. That means young girls and women keep streaming into Larry's treatment rooms - not just at MSU, but at USA Gymnastics and local gyms, a nearby high school, too - even at his home, where Larry treats patients on a massage table in his basement. Some 70 survivors say they were abused by Larry after MSU cleared him to go back to work.

SMITH: It would be two years, 2016, until another MSU Police detective would bring Larry in again. This time, he wasn't getting away.


NASSAR: If there was arousal, it's - I mean, it would be because of whatever. I don't know. But I'm not trying to...

UNIDENTIFIED DETECTIVE: What do you mean by whatever? I don't know.

NASSAR: Well - well...


NASSAR: You know, when you're a guy, sometimes you get an erection. You know what I mean? But I don't - it's...

UNIDENTIFIED DETECTIVE: You get an erection when you're aroused.

NASSAR: Yeah, but you know - you know what I mean? Like, I'm just saying that, you know, you - you - you - I'm not trying to - I'm - how do you say this?

SMITH: Larry's facade begins to fall apart, finally. That's coming up on the next episode of BELIEVED.


WELLS: If you want to see some of the confidential portion of the Title IX report we were talking about or watch excerpts of Larry's police interview, head to This week's show was reported by me, Kate Wells, and Lindsey Smith, produced by Juliet Hinely with help from Paulette Parker, edited by Sarah Hulett with help from Alison MacAdam, engineered and mixed by Bob Skon. Jennifer Guerra is the show's executive producer. Zoe Clark is our program director. Our theme music is by Paul Brill. Additional music and scoring by Ramtin Arablouei.

SMITH: Special thanks to Emma Winowiecki, Jodi Westrick, Rebecca Williams, Vince Duffy, Amy Tardif, Len Niehoff, Nisa Khan, Hannah Rubenstein, Lara Moehlman, Zak Rosen and Meg Kramer (ph). And the folks at NPR, Mark Memmott, Ashley Messenger, Camille Smiley and N'Jeri Eaton. We'll have a new episode of BELIEVED on Monday. If you're listening on Apple Podcasts, please leave us a review. It'll help more people find the show. You can also join the conversation on Twitter. We're @believedpod.


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