Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is under fire for allegedly knowing about sexual abuse against college athletes and not doing his part to put an end to it.
"It’s not true. I never knew about any type of abuse. If I did, I would have done something about it. And look, if there are people who are abused, then that’s terrible and we want justice to happen," Jordan told Politico in an interview on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump, who has worked closely with Jordan on his legislative agenda, made it clear that he believes the congressman didn't know about the accusations and that he does not believe the now five former wrestlers who claim otherwise.
"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. I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind. I believe Jim Jordan 100 percent. He’s an outstanding man," Trump said at the rally.
The accusations about Jordan knowing that sexual abuse was occurring and doing nothing to stop were reported by NBC News earlier this week. In the story, NBC News detailed how former wrestlers who competed for Ohio State University when Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach there from 1986 to 1994 claimed he had to have been aware that Dr. Richard Strauss, who worked at the school, would regularly shower with students and grope them during medical appointments. Strauss is accused of having engaged in this conduct from the 1970s through the 1990s, with at least one wrestler saying that he personally told Jordan what Strauss had done.
In one video interview with former head coach Russ Hellickson made by a former wrestler named Mike DiSabato, it was revealed that the erstwhile coach had told Strauss he was too "hands on" with students and needed to stop. DiSabato did not hold back when asked by NBC News about Jordan's denial.
"I considered Jim Jordan a friend. But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on," DiSabato told NBC News. He also claimed that when Jordan was informed that the accusations about Strauss were going to be made public, Jordan requested that DiSabato "please leave me out of it."
Another former wrestler on the squad recalled in detail both Strauss' attempt to molest him and the fact that Jordan both knew about it and threatened Strauss — in order to make sure that the doctor never made a pass at him, that is.
"I remember I had a thumb injury and went into Strauss’ office and he started pulling down my wrestling shorts. I’m like, what the f--- are you doing? And I went out and told Russ and Jim what happened. I was not having it. They went in and talked to Strauss," Dunyasha Yetts told NBC News. He recalled that he and his teammates had a number of conversations with Jordan about Strauss' behavior and added that "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 also made it clear that he personally liked Jordan. "He’s a great guy. We would have all these great talks with him and he talked about how one day he’d be the president of the United States," Yetts told NBC News. "So it’s sad for me to hear that he’s denying knowing about Strauss. I don’t know why he would, unless it’s a cover-up. Either you’re in on it, or you’re a liar."
Since that original story was published, a fourth former wrestler came forward and told NBC News that Jordan was lying about not knowing about the accusations against Strauss.
"I participated with Jimmy and the other wrestlers in locker-room talk about Strauss. We all did. It was very common knowledge in the locker room that if you went to Dr. Strauss for anything, you would have to pull your pants down," the wrestler, Shawn Dailey, told NBC News.
As Politico explained, this story has the potential to ruin Jordan's political career, which seemed to be peaking due to his prominence in the House Freedom Caucus as Republicans retain control of both branches of Congress and the White House:
But Jordan, who was Hellickson’s No. 2, said that was not his experience.
The controversy has the potential to engulf Jordan, a conservative firebrand, during the height of his political career.
Jordan has become one of the most powerful House Republicans, wielding influence that arguably rivals that of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). He commands the loyalty of several dozen conservative Republicans who often band together to demand concessions for their votes, bending leadership to their will. Jordan has entertained running for speaker or minority leader after Ryan retires.
Asked whether he‘s worried about the new allegations, Jordan said, “We’ve got the truth on our side.” Several of Jordan‘s allies also came to his defense privately, and said to expect a more robust response in the coming days.
Yet as CNN pointed out, it is perhaps unsurprising that Trump is backing Jordan despite the seriousness of the accusations against him and the number of people who have come forward to attest that he knew about Strauss' alleged behavior. Trump has previously come forward to support accused sexual predators like Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, former Fox News president Roger Ailes and former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. He also refused to believe that Rob Porter, White House staff secretary, had engaged in physical abuse against his two ex-wives.
Earlier this year Democratic Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut was forced to resign after a Washington Post report revealed that her former chief of staff kept his job for three months in 2016 after he harassed a female colleague.