POLITICS

Rep. Jim Jordan Is Running To Be Speaker Of The House. He's Also Accused Of Covering Up Sexual Abuse.

The GOP lawmaker was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State, where Dr. Richard H. Strauss allegedly abused hundreds of student-athletes.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) announced his bid to run for House speaker on Thursday, just one day after he filed articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But it’s important not to let this be a distraction from the other story about Jordan: He allegedly ignored the sexual abuse of at least eight student-athletes at Ohio State University for years.

“I plan to run for Speaker of the House to bring real changes to Congress,” Jordan wrote in a letter to colleagues Thursday. “I believe we have given the American people reason to question our commitment to reform.”

Jordan, along with other conservative lawmakers on Wednesday, filed articles of impeachment against Rosenstein, who is overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“The DOJ is keeping information from Congress,” Jordan said in a statement. “Enough is enough. It’s time to hold Mr. Rosenstein accountable for blocking Congress’s constitutional oversight role.” 

For all of republican lawmakers’ talk of accountability, Jordan himself has remained essentially unscathed by his fellow colleagues as he battles allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of student athletes by a team physician at Ohio State University.

More Than 100 Students Sexually Abused

Over several decades, more than 100 students were sexually abused by college sports physician Richard H. Strauss, according to new lawsuits levied against OSU and an independent investigation conducted by the university. 

Strauss worked as a university-employed physician from the mid-1970s to the 1990s, where he worked with hundreds of student athletes from 14 different sports teams. Strauss killed himself in 2005.

In a pair of new lawsuits filed earlier this month, student-athletes who were abused by Strauss said it was an open secret in the locker rooms. The physician was referred to as “Dr. Jellypaws,” The New York Times reported, and university officials largely ignored what was happening, according to the lawsuits.

In 1993, a team member on the wrestling team explained to then-head coach, Russ Hellickson, what was happening to him, according to the suit.

In an interview with USA Today, Hellickson denied knowing about the abuse, but in the same interview said he was aware that Strauss made his athletes “uncomfortable.”

What’s more, Hellickson said he once confronted Strauss about the doctor’s desire to shower with students. The doctor countered that Hellickson also showered with athletes, to which Hellickson replied, “Not for an hour, Doc.”

“I said, ‘When you’re doing weigh-ins, you’re too hands on, Doc,’” Hellickson said. Yet he maintained there was no “red flag” that Strauss was being abusive. 

Even after Strauss left the university in 1996 to establish his own private medical office in Columbus, the abuse of his patients continued, according to an investigation by the university.

“We are grateful to those who have come forward and remain deeply concerned for anyone who may have been affected by Dr. Strauss’ actions,” Ohio State President Michael Drake said in a July 20 statement. “We remain steadfastly committed to uncovering the truth.”

Some Victims Say Jordan Knew

At least eight of the victims have come forward to say that Jordan knew what was taking place during his time at the university. Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994, during which time he was told of what was happening to his own athletes, the victims said.

“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,” former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato told NBC News in an investigative report published earlier this month. 

Dunyasha Yetts, who wrestled at Ohio State in 1993 and 1994, told the outlet that he confronted Jordan about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Strauss.

“I remember I had a thumb injury and went into Strauss’ office and he started pulling down my wrestling shorts,” Yetts said. “I’m like, what the fuck 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.”

Yetts said it upsets him that Jordan ― who he called a “great guy” ― would cover up for a sexual abuser. 

“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.”

Jordan has vehemently denied ever knowing about the abuse.

“I had not heard about any type of abuse at all,” Jordan told the Columbus Dispatch in April, adding that “no one reported any type of abuse” to him.

Republicans Brush Allegations Aside

Republican lawmakers have largely brushed aside the accusations against their colleague, instead working with the embattled politician to draft articles of impeachment against Rosenstein.

On July 6, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he would “await the findings” of the investigation into Jordan. Days later, he praised Jordan as a “man of integrity.” 

“Jim Jordan is a friend of mine,” Ryan said at a news conference July 11. “We haven’t always agreed with each other over the years, but I have always known Jim Jordan to be a man of honesty, and a man of integrity.”  

Ryan went on to say that the House Ethics Committee would not investigate Jordan. And the House Freedom Caucus, which Jordan co-founded, voted to support the congressman in the wake of the accusations, according to CNN. 

During that vote, multiple republican lawmakers came to Jordan’s defense, including Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), who said, “We need to be supportive of our colleague.”

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) said the accusations were “a lot of hearsay.” And Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told reporters that “these allegations could be made against anyone.”

But the biggest defense came from President Donald Trump himself, who earlier this month called Jordan “an outstanding man.”

“I don’t believe them at all,” he told reporters on Air Force One regarding the victims accusing Jordan. “I believe [Jordan]. I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind.”

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