SPENCERVILLE – Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, on Thursday continued to refute allegations that he turned a blind eye to sexual abuse inside the wrestling program at Ohio State University decades ago.
Jordan, a conservative lawmaker whose 4th Congressional district stretches from Urbana to Lake Erie and includes Lima, has spent recent days embroiled in controversy following accusations by three former OSU wrestlers that a one-time sports physician molested student-athletes and that Jordan and other wrestling coaches at the university knew of the alleged abuse.
The former OSU wrestlers, two of whom were named in an NBC News story released Tuesday, said it was common knowledge that Richard Strauss, the college physician, regularly showered with students and touched them inappropriately during examinations.
According to the NBC report, one former wrestler, Dunyasha Yetts, said he personally told Jordan about an instance in which the doctor pulled his pants down. The other athlete named in the report, Mike DiSabato, told NBC that the conviction of former Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar — who allegedly molested hundreds of young female gymnasts — inspired him to come forward with the allegations against Strauss.
Strauss died in 2005, and his death was ruled a suicide.
During a Thursday morning visit to a Spencerville church, where parishioners are quilting lap blankets for military veterans in hospice care, Jordan fielded questions from several media outlets about the wrestlers’ allegations. The GOP lawmaker was emphatic in his assertion that he had no knowledge of the incidents.
“The things that are being said about me are absolutely untrue,” Jordan said. “If I had seen any signs of abuse, I would have reported it.”
Jordan said he is willing to sit down with investigators to discuss the alleged incidents.
Asked if he believes the statements from the former OSU wrestlers were politically motivated, Jordan responded, “Well, the timing is interesting … coming right after the hearing with Mr. Rosenstein and at a time when my name is being mentioned as a potential candidate for Speaker” of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jordan received negative public backlash from some members of both political parties following a combative exchange last week with Rosenstein, the deputy U.S. Attorney General, over the ongoing independent counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election process.
During Thursday morning’s press conference, Jordan, co-founder of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, lashed out at the law firm of Perkins Coie, which is conducting an independent investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse at Ohio State.
“People at Perkins Coie said they tried to contact me for comment and that I did not respond,” Jordan said. “Well, they sent a message to an old email address of mine that isn’t even used any more. It’s just ridiculous that they couldn’t find the active email address for a sitting congressman.”
President Donald Trump weighed in on the allegations against Jordan, according to the CQ-Roll Call, on his way to a Montana rally Thursday.
“I don’t believe them at all. I believe him. Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington,” he said. “I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind. I believe Jim Jordan 100 percent. He’s an outstanding man.”
The campaign chairman for Janet Garrett, Jordan’s Democrat opponent in the fall election, said Thursday the campaign takes no enjoyment from the allegations against Jordan.
“We are waiting to see what happens with the investigation,” said Zach Stepp. “We are concerned with all the deflecting (by Jordan) but we don’t know anything other than what has been reported.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Garrett said, “Any allegation of sexual abuse — or complicity regarding such abuse — is very serious. That damage cannot be undone. … Ohio State has an obligation to get to the bottom of this with a thorough and fair investigation. Jim Jordan has an obligation to cooperate fully with that investigation.”