The Capitol building at dusk.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

Leading GOP rep accused of having turned a blind eye to sexual abuse

Updated

Ohio State University has spent the last few months confronting a controversy surrounding the late Dr. Richard Strauss, a former physician for student athletes from the mid-1970s to late 1990s, who’s been accused of molesting students during his tenure.

Today, the story took on political significance because some of Strauss’ alleged victims have said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a coach at the university at the time, knew about the sexual abuse, despite his denials. NBC News reported this afternoon:

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, and continued to deny it on Tuesday. His denials, however, have been met with skepticism and anger from some former members of the wrestling team.

Three former wrestlers told NBC News that it was common knowledge that Strauss showered regularly with the students and inappropriately touched them during appointments, and said it would have been impossible for Jordan to be unaware; one wrestler said he told Jordan directly about the abuse.

Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler, told NBC News, “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.”

Another OSU wrestler, Dunyasha Yetts, said he told Jordan on multiple occasions about Strauss. “For God’s sake, Strauss’s locker was right next to Jordan’s and Jordan even said he’d kill him if he tried anything with him,” Yetts said.

He added, in reference to Jordan, “[I]t’s sad for me to hear that he’s denying knowing about Strauss. I don’t know why he would, unless it’s a cover-up. Either you’re in on it, or you’re a liar.”

Another former OSU student athlete who asked not to be identified, said concerns about the doctor were “all over the locker room,” and in reference to the congressman, the former wrestler said, “It was a head-scratcher to me why he would say he didn’t know anything.”

Jordan and his office have insisted more than once that he knew nothing about any alleged abuse during his time at the university. The school is investigating what transpired, and the Ohio Republican has said he’s prepared to help.

NBC News’ report is worth reading in its entirety – I’m really just excerpting some of the key details – and it’s likely we’ll learn more as the university’s probe continues.

As for the politics, it’s too soon to say with confidence what kind of effect this might have on Jordan’s career. The right-wing lawmaker – who helped create the House Freedom Caucus – is running for re-election in a very conservative district, where he won in 2016 by 35 points.

He’s also reportedly interested in trying to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).