Fourteen former Ohio State University wrestlers have joined former coaches in defending Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, rebutting accusations that the congressman ignored claims of sexual abuse while serving as an assistant coach more than two decades ago.
In a statement, distributed by a group called Stand with Jim Jordan, the wrestlers describe Jordan as a man of honesty and integrity who stood up for his athletes.
Already, six former OSU wrestling coaches, including the head coach under whom Jordan served, have stated they, too, were unaware of any claims of sexual abuse by team doctor Richard Strauss.
Jim Picolo, who wrestled at OSU from 1982 to 1987, said “most of us” thought Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005, was “a little odd,” but he never saw the doctor “do anything inappropriate.”
“Also never was I made aware by any of my teammates that he had done anything inappropriate,” he wrote. “My 5th and final year Russ Hellickson was my Head Coach and Jim Jordan one of my assistants. I do not have any knowledge, nor do I believe that they knew of any inappropriate behaviors by Doctor Strauss. Furthermore I do believe, knowing them both as I do, that they would have taken action had they been aware of any abuse.”
Hellickson, in a statement for Stand with Jim Jordan, said that from the first day he met Jordan as a student athlete, he “has been the most honorable man I have ever known and my respect and admiration for all he has done and accomplished is at the very highest level.”
“At no time while Jim Jordan was a coach with me at Ohio State did either of us ignore abuse of our wrestlers,” Hellickson wrote. “That is not the kind of man Jim is, and it is not the kind of coach that I was.”
NBC News reported last week that some alleged victims of Strauss claimed they talked with Jordan about the abuse when the congressman was a coach. Five former wrestlers, including former UFC world champion Mark Coleman, have claimed that Jordan was aware of the allegations but didn’t respond to them, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Law.com noted the number of alleged victims – more than 1,500 across at least 15 varsity sports at Ohio State– threatens to dwarf the historic $500 million case recently settled at Big Ten counterpart Michigan State, where more than 300 victims filed suit in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
President Trump, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the conservative House Freedom Caucus have stated they believe Jordan.
Jordan and some of his defenders have suggested there may be political motives behind the accusations against him, arguing he is regarded as a candidate to succeed Ryan as House speaker and has been a leader in confronting the Justice Department and FBI for their handling of the Hillary Clinton email and Russia probes. The investigation of the Strauss allegations at Ohio State is being led by Perkins Coie, the Seattle law firm retained by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that figured in the anti-Trump “dossier.”
Jordan tweeted Wednesday that CNN now is trying to contact every one of the more than 100 staff members and interns associated with the OSU wrestling program during Jordan’s tenure, “asking for dirt on me.”
Eric Trump, son of the president, tweeted a reply to Jordan: “And even if 99 out of the 100 have the nicest / kindest things to say about you @Jim_Jordan, guess which quote they will publish — the one. Welcome to our world. #JournalismIsDead #RaceToTheBottom.”
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) July 11, 2018
“I never saw, never heard of, I never was told about any type of abuse,” Jordan said.
“If I had been, I would have dealt with it. Our coaching staff – we would have dealt with it – these were our student athletes,” said Jordan.
“A good coach puts the interest of student athletes first. We would have dealt with it if we had known about anything that happened.”
Jim Jordan is a man of integrity, and we believe him and stand with him 100 percent. If he had seen or heard something he would have acted. We continue to support his work in Congress to fight for everyday Americans.
— House Freedom Caucus (@freedomcaucus) July 11, 2018
‘Conversations in a locker room are a lot different’
Jordan, an assistant coach at OSU from 1987 to 1995, was a four-time state wrestling champion in high school in Ohio and won two NCAA titles, in 1985 and 1986, for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He twice defeated future two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith in an NCAA tournament in 1985.
In the interview Friday, Baier asked Jordan to respond to his chief accuser, former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato, who asserted last week that Jordan knew about the “deviant sexual atmosphere that we were exposed to,” claiming the abuse was discussed on a regular basis in “locker room banter.”
Now there are five accusers, Baier pointed out, with Politico reporting six.
“Where are these guys coming from?” the Fox News host asked.
“Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than allegations of abuse or reporting abuse to us,” Jordan replied, noting he’s been around the sport of wrestling his whole life and many family members are currently involved.
“No one ever reported any abuse to me,” he maintained. “If they had, I would have dealt with it.”
Jordan said that what bothers him the most is “the guys who are saying this thing, I know they know the truth.”
“I know they know what they’re saying is not accurate,” the congressman said.
“So, what do you think is their motivation?” Baier asked.
“You would have to ask them,” Jordan replied.
But he quickly added that DiSabato “has a vendetta against Ohio State,” pointing out DiSabato lost a licensing agreement with the university, was caught “bilking” a fund for a slain Marine and was arrested five months ago for threatening the lawyer of Chris Spielman, the former football star who is suing OSU over the marketing of his name. Another accuser, Dunyasha Yetts, is a convicted criminal who spent 18 months in prison, Jordan noted.