Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio – rumored to be a top choice for the next Speaker of the House – has been implicated in a major sexual abuse scandal at Ohio State University after former wrestlers he coached accused him of knowing about the predatory and abusive behavior of a former university doctor.
The university announced in April that it was investigating accusations that Dr. Richard Strauss, who died in 2005, abused team members when he was the team doctor from the mid-1970s to late 1990s.
Jordan, who was assistant wrestling coach at the university from 1986 to 1994, has repeatedly said he knew nothing of the abuse until former students began speaking out this spring. His denials, however, have been met with skepticism and anger from some former members of the wrestling team.
At least one former student told Jordan directly about the abuse, according to NBC News, and several others insisted it would have been impossible for the Republican to have been unaware considering the talk around the locker room.
Former head coach Russ Hellickson, Jordan's mentor, said in a recent video — made by Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler — that Hellickson had told Strauss that he was being too "hands on” with students.
DiSabato, whose allegations against Strauss prompted Ohio State to open its investigation, called Jordan a “liar.”
“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” DiSabato said. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”
DiSabato said he contacted Jordan before going to university officials with the allegations, believing Jordan would have his back – instead, Jordan reportedly asked the former wrestler to “please leave me out of it”.
Dunyasha Yetts, who wrestled at Ohio State in 1993 and 1994, said he and others told Jordan about Strauss.
“I remember I had a thumb injury and went into Strauss’ office and he started pulling down my wrestling shorts,” he said. “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.”
According to Yetts, he and other teammates discussed Strauss’ behavior with Jordan numerous times.
“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."
"So it’s sad for me to hear that he’s denying knowing about Strauss," he said. "I don’t know why he would, unless it’s a cover-up. Either you’re in on it, or you’re a liar.”
But Jordan is holding tight to his claim that no one alerted him to the abuse during his time at the university:
When the first stories about the university investigation appeared this spring, Jordan told The Columbus Dispatch, “I had not heard about any type of abuse at all.” He also said that “no one reported any type of abuse” to him.
After NBC News reached out to Jordan, the congressman’s spokesman repeated the denial.
“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,” his spokesman, Ian Fury, said in an email to NBC News.
DiSabato claims that Strauss abused potentially thousands of students during his years at the university, across 15 different sports; Ohio State officials confirmed complaints from individuals from 14 sports and former patients in Student Health Services.
“Strauss sexually assaulted male athletes in at least fifteen varsity sports during his employment at OSU from 1978 through 1998,” DiSabato wrote in a June 26 email to Kathleen M. Trafford of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, the Columbus-based law firm that represents Ohio State. “Athlete victims include members of the following programs: football, basketball, wrestling, swimming, cheerleading, volleyball, lacrosse, gymnastics, ice hockey, soccer, baseball, tennis, track and cross country.”
Chillingly, DiSabato added: “Based on testimony from victim athletes from each of the aforementioned varsity sports, we estimate that Strauss sexually assaulted and/or raped a minimum of 1,500/2,000 athletes at OSU from 1978 through 1998.”
Strauss moved to Los Angeles in 1998, where he took his own life seven years later.