Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has been accused of ignoring rampant sexual abuse while he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University decades ago.
Seven former OSU wrestlers have gone to the press in the past week to claim that Jordan knew about athletic doctor Richard Strauss’ alleged sexual abuse of wrestlers. Strauss’ behavior is under investigation by the school, though he committed suicide in 2005. Former athletes, not all of whom were wrestlers, say the doctor fondled athletes during hernia checks and watched them in the shower.
If the timing of these allegations — roping in Jordan as some kind of accomplice — sounds suspect, that’s because it is. Jordan was the assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995, long before the #MeToo era and campus culture of reporting any joke or errant comment for investigation. These accusations didn’t come out then, or when he was running for the Ohio General Assembly in 1994, or when he was elected to the Ohio Senate in 2000, or when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, or in any of the 12 years since.
It was only after news reports said Jordan was considering a run to replace Paul Ryan (R-WI) as speaker of the House that the accusations against him came up.
No one is saying the abuse didn’t happen, but there is no evidence to date that Jordan knew about any of it as an assistant coach. Several of the former athletes who have accused Jordan of knowing about the abuse — but doing nothing — have simply stated he should have known. The latest accuser, David Range, said Jordan knew because athletes “joked about it and talked about it all the time” while Jordan was in the locker room.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Mark Coleman said Jordan “knew as far as I’m concerned.” Another former wrestler, Dunyasha Yetts, said he and others personally complained to Jordan about the abuse.
Jordan denies such complaints occurred, saying on Fox News, “Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than allegations of abuse or reported abuse,” and that “no one ever reported any abuse to me.”
Indeed, jokes and talk — that Jordan may or may not have overheard — don’t amount to reports of abuse. Nowadays administrators are taught to report anything they overhear, regardless of whether a formal complaint was made, but we can’t hold people responsible to today’s stringent requirements for something that happened nearly 30 years ago.
Many people have stepped up to defend Jordan from the accusations, including former coaches and players. Former head coach Russ Hellickson says he warned the doctor about being “too hands on” with students, but signed a statement saying neither he nor Jordan were aware of any abuse. Five other former assistant coaches signed the letter as well.
Former wrestler Michael Alf told The Washington Post he doesn’t remember any of the conversations about abuse occurring in front of Jordan. Another former athlete said it was “way more likely that [he] didn’t know than did know” and suggested the accusations against Jordan are politically motivated.
That certainly could be the case, at least for some of those coming after Jordan. Two of the accusers, Michael DiSabato and Yetts, have pasts that have raised questions about motive. DiSabato has had previous legal disputes with OSU and others, and Yetts has made similar sexual abuse accusations in the past and spent time in prison for fraud. Those who would defend the accusers would point out their pasts have no bearing on whether they were sexually abused, which is true, but it’s hard not to question their motives for dragging Jordan into the fight in such a public way.