WASHINGTON — A handful of House conservatives released statements today backing House Freedom Caucus Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in the face of allegations that he turned a blind eye to sexual abuse on the wrestling team he coached before entering Congress.
Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University from 1987 until he was sworn in to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1995. The team’s physician during Jordan’s tenure, Richard Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005, became the subject of an Ohio State sexual abuse investigation this April.
This month, seven former Ohio State wrestlers, including former UFC world champion Mark Coleman, said Jordan knew about the allegations of sexual misconduct at the time but did nothing.
“There’s no way unless he’s got dementia or something that he’s got no recollection of what was going on at Ohio State,” Coleman told the Wall Street Journal. “I have nothing but respect for this man, I love this man, but he knew as far as I’m concerned.”
Jordan told Fox News on Friday that the allegations were “false.”
“I mean, I never saw, never heard of, never was told about any type of abuse. If I had been, I would have dealt with it. Our coaching staff — we would have dealt with it. These were our student athletes. A good coach puts the — puts the interest of his student athletes first. We would have dealt with it if we’d have known about anything that happened,” Jordan said. “If in fact there are victims, they deserve justice. There’s an investigation going on. We’re going to, I think, meet with them next week. We want the investigation to get to the truth. That’s what we need here is the truth.”
Responding to a former wrestler’s description that “it was something that we would discuss on a regular basis, mainly with nervous banter,” Jordan said that “conversations in a locker room are a lot different than allegations of abuse or — or reported abuse to us.”
Jordan said he felt “sorry” for Coleman after hearing the former UFC champ’s allegations.
“Mark Coleman wrestled for us, was a national champ, and then was one of our coaches for several years. That — it’s just not accurate. There is — there never was abuse reported to me, and if there was we would have dealt with it,” the congressman said.
Today, a request for an investigation was filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics by Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer and former White House chief ethics lawyer Norman Eisen.
“We request that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) conduct a preliminary inquiry into whether Rep. Jordan is making false statements about his knowledge of whether members of the Ohio State wrestling team were being sexually abused by the team doctor during the time he was an assistant coach of the team,” states the complaint. “If OCE determines there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Jordan is lying in now claiming that he had no knowledge that wrestling team members under his care and supervision were being sexually abused, and if OCE also determines there is substantial reason to believe that Jordan’s false public statements denying such knowledge constitute a violation of clause 1 of House Rule XXIII by failing to ‘reflect creditably on the House,’ OCE should recommend that the House Ethics Committee further review this matter.”
“The House Ethics Committee should then investigate and determine whether Rep. Jordan’s alleged false public statements about this matter constitute a violation of clause 1 of House Rule XXIII.”
Eisen said in a statement, “If this were a ‘he said, he said’ matter, that would be one thing. But with seven witnesses already stepping forward and perhaps more in the wings, an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation is needed. The House ethics rules prohibit bringing dishonor upon that body — and what could be more dishonorable than Rep. Jordan now allegedly covering up his failure to stop widespread sexual abuse of students.”
Backing up Jordan in a series of statements issued jointly today were Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), and Scott Perry (R-Pa.).
“He’s been in public life for nearly two decades and has earned the reputation of a man of integrity. I am confident that when all facts are revealed, Congressman Jordan will be vindicated,” Biggs said.
Meadows said he backs Jordan “100 percent,” while Buck called it “inconceivable” that Jordan would ignore sexual abuse complaints.
“In the many years I have known Jim Jordan, he has served with integrity and good character. The timing of these allegations, coming 13 years after the doctor died, combined with the questionable background of the accusers, and involving the counsel for the DNC, makes one thing clear: these are mere political statements intended to smear a good man,” charged Gosar.
Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom, Caucus, had called on members last week to publicly support Jordan.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been more cautious, saying through a spokesman that he will await the findings of Ohio State’s inquiry.