Republicans react to new report that Rep. Jim Jordan allegedly ignored sexual abuse

"These are serious allegations": House Speaker Paul Ryan responds to allegations against Ohio Republican Jim Jordan

Published July 3, 2018 4:46PM (EDT)

Jim Jordan (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jim Jordan (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in on an explosive new report that suggests Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio ignored evidence of a doctor's sexual abuse of students on Ohio State University's wrestling team, which Jordan used to coach.

"These are serious allegations and issues. The university has rightfully initiated a full investigation into the matter. The speaker will await the findings of that inquiry," said Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan, according to CNN.

Jordan, now a top House conservative weighing a bid for speaker, is denying the claims he turned a blind eye to the abuse over a decade ago.

"Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State," Jordan's office said in a statement Tuesday. "He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice."

The statement followed an NBC News report on Tuesday, which quoted several former student-athletes who said that Jordan, while working as the assistant coach of Ohio State University's wrestling team from 1986 to 1994, knowingly ignored signs that the team doctor, Richard Strauss, sexually abused multiple members of the team. Strauss died in 2005, according to NBC News, and Jordan was elected to Congress in 2006.

The NBC story cited three former wrestling team members who said it would have been impossible for the congressman to be unaware of the alleged sexual abuse, which they said was common knowledge at the time. The report claimed Strauss regularly showered with the students and inappropriately touched them during office appointments.

Ohio State opened an investigation in April into claims that Strauss had abused team members over a two-decade period. The university enlisted Perkins Coie, a prominent law firm, to oversee the probe, and according to NBC News, the law firm so far has interviewed more than 150 former students and witnesses.

According to the report, one former wrestler, Mike DiSabato, made a video of the former head wrestling coach — Russ Hellickson, a mentor of Jordan's — alleging that Strauss had been too "hands on" with the student-athletes. The video was sent to Ohio State in June.

DiSabato, whose allegations against Strauss prompted the university to open its investigation, called Jordan a "liar."

"I considered Jim Jordan a friend," DiSabato told NBC News. "But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on."

DiSabato said Jordan told him to "please leave me out of it" when reached out to the congressman earlier this year about his intention to go public with his allegations.

Another wrestler on the team in 1993 and 1994, Dunyasha Yetts, told NBC News that he and others had told Jordan about Strauss after he went to Strauss for a thumb injury and Strauss asked him to pull down his pants. Yetts said Hellickson and Jordan "went in and talked to Strauss."

"For God's sake, Strauss's locker was right next to Jordan's and Jordan even said he'd kill him if he tried anything with him," Yetts added, noting that he and his teammates complained to Jordan several times about Strauss.

When The Columbus Dispatch first reported about the university investigation this spring, Jordan denied knowing about the abuse, telling the local newspaper, "I had not heard about any type of abuse at all." At the time, he also said "no one reported any type of abuse" to him.

NBC News reports that Jordan is expected to be questioned by the law firm that Ohio State hired to conduct the investigation into Strauss' misconduct.

Jordan, who co-founded the House Freedom Caucus and now serves as its vice chairman, is frequently mentioned as a possible replacement for the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. The news is likely to move him several steps back toward his towards his bid for House speaker.

He has become a staunch ally of President Donald Trump for his fierce attacks on the FBI and Justice Department officials responsible for the ongoing Russia probe.

While in the Ohio State Senate in 2006, Jordan supported legislation that would have created a one-year window for victims of child molestation to file lawsuits against perpetrators up to 35 years after the alleged incidents.

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By Shira Tarlo

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