Republican Rep. Jim Jordan is denying a report that he turned a blind eye to alleged sexual abuse at Ohio State University when he was an assistant wrestling coach.
An NBC News report published Tuesday alleged the powerful Ohio congressman was aware of allegations that a doctor was molesting members of the wrestling team when he was an assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994, but that he ignored those claims of abuse.
CNN has not confirmed the details of the NBC report. Jordan’s office denied that he knew of any such behavior in two separate statements Tuesday.
“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,” the first statement said.
An hour later, his office released an updated statement that said: “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. 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.”
Ohio State University announced in April it was investigating abuse allegations against Dr. Richard Strauss, who died in 2005, for allegedly abusing team members from the mid-1970s to late 1990s. Three former wrestlers told NBC News it was known that the doctor would shower regularly with the students and touch them inappropriately during appointments.
When stories about the investigation became public this spring, Jordan told The Columbus Dispatch, “I had not heard about any type of abuse at all,” he said, adding that “no one reported any type of abuse” to him.
The Ohio State University released a statement Tuesday saying the investigation is ongoing and that they are also “investigating whether, and to what extent, Dr. Strauss may have examined high school-aged students during his time at the university.”
“Our efforts will continue to be focused on uncovering what may have happened during this era, what university leaders at the time may have known, and whether any response at the time was appropriate,” the statement said. “Once the independent investigation has been completed, we will be in a position to consider what further action may be appropriate.”
A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan called the accusations “serious” and said they should be investigated.
“These are serious allegations and issues,” Doug Andres told CNN in a statement. “The university has rightfully initiated a full investigation into the matter. The speaker will await the findings of that inquiry.”
The investigative team looking into the allegations of sexual abuse said Tuesday they had reached out to Jordan by email and phone asking for interviews. In a letter obtained by CNN, legal counsel for Ohio State said that to date Jordan has not responded to their requests.
A source in Jordan’s office said they have searched office communications and don’t have any record of their office being contacted by investigators, by phone or email.
Former wrestler says Jordan was aware
Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler at OSU who says he is one Strauss’ many alleged victims, told CNN there is no question in his mind that Jordan “knew it all.”
DiSabato said during his time at OSU, Strauss’ alleged abuse of athletes was widely known and discussed.
“We trained every day together. His (Jordan’s) locker was located next to Doc Strauss. It was a common uncomfortable joke that Doc was a serial groper,” DiSabato said. “Doc likes to hold your penis. Everyone knew it.”
DiSabato told CNN he was groped by Strauss dozens of times.
“I never saw Doc Strauss over a nine-year time frame where he didn’t ask me to — where I went to see him for medicine or whatever, finger injury, shoulder, knee — where he did not want to examine my testicles,” he said. “He groped. Every time.”
Years ago, DiSabato said he simply didn’t have the vocabulary to precisely describe what he now understands to be sexual assault. But seeing the gymnasts at Michigan State University come out against team doctor Larry Nassar was clarifying.
“It was almost as though he taught Larry Nasser what he did,” he said. “Doc Strauss was more prolific.”
Pressed on how he could be so certain that Jordan knew about the abuse at the time, DiSabato said there were many conversations in which he acknowledged Strauss’ alleged actions.
“It just sounded like, ‘Jim, can you believe this dude? He’s out of his mind,'” DiSabato said, adding that Jordan’s response would be along the lines of: “If he ever touches me, I’ll kill him.”
Leading member of Congress
Jordan is currently a member of the House Freedom Caucus, an influential group of Republicans who are known as the most conservative members on the Hill. He also has been “encouraged by some of his colleagues” to consider a run for House speaker, according to caucus Chairman Mark Meadows.
Janet Garrett, Jordan’s Democratic rival in Ohio’s 4th Congressional District, called on him to comply with the investigation.
“Any allegation of sexual abuse against minors — or complicity regarding such abuse — is very serious. That damage cannot be undone,” Garrett said. “For any teacher, protecting kids is the absolute first priority — and I say that as a former kindergarten teacher. 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.”