U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s supporters are waging an enthusiastic campaign to defend the Urbana Republican against claims he knew about potential sexual misconduct at Ohio State University during his time as assistant wrestling coach and did nothing about it, while former Ohio State administrators said Tuesday they weren’t aware of the doctor in question nor allegations of abuse.
Fifteen former Ohio State University wrestlers issued a joint statement Tuesday defending Jordan against accusations by seven former Ohio State wrestlers that Jordan was aware of sexual impropriety by former team doctor Richard Strauss and did nothing about it. That statement came one day after eight former coaches — including two who’d previously defended Jordan — issued a statement coming to Jordan’s defense.
As wrestlers came to Jordan’s defense, a pair of former Ohio State administrators also said they weren’t aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by Strauss.
Former Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee told The Dispatch in a statement Tuesday that he had no recollection of Strauss or allegations against him, and indicated he has been in communication with investigators handling the Strauss probe.
Gee’s first stint as Ohio State president, from 1990 to 1997, fell during Strauss’ tenure as a physician at the university.
“As has been conveyed to the investigators at Ohio State, I have no recollection of Dr. Strauss or any reports regarding him,” said Gee, now president at West Virginia University. “I have always taken any allegations brought to my attention very seriously, and will continue to do so.”
Gee also said he was familiar with Jordan because Jordan represented the OSU Lima regional campus during Gee’s second term, but did not comment on his time as an assistant coach or on recent allegations from former wrestlers that the congressman knew about abuse by Strauss.
“I don’t really remember even hearing his name,” said Linda Tom, former Vice President of Human Resources at Ohio State from 1992-1997. “I never heard anything about those issues in the athletic department.”
If anyone did complain about Strauss’ conduct then, it should have come through human resources, said Tom, who added that she has not been in touch with investigators.
“I wish I was aware (then), because we certainly would have dealt with that very directly,” Tom said.
Some defenders say that the attacks against Jordan are politically motivated and timed to thwart a potential run for Speaker of the House. Others have questioned the motivations of the accusers, saying the most vocal accuser has a beef with Ohio State over a merchandising agreement. That accuser, Michael DiSabato, said such attacks are an example of blaming the victim.
Ohio State launched an investigation into accusations against Strauss in April, and so far, investigators for the university have interviewed more than 150 witnesses from 14 sports. On July 3, NBC News reported that three wrestlers said Jordan knew of the alleged abuse by Strauss and did nothing about it.
Jordan’s defenders Tuesday included former wrestlers Cullen Waugh, Ferdinand J. Miller, Jim Picolo, Andy Stickley — Jordan’s brother–in–law — as well as Matt Mondalek. They and others issued different quotes in support of Jordan, but the gist was the same: Jordan, they said, was a man of character and integrity.
“I feel that Jim is a very honest and ethical person and always acted in the best interest of our teammates,” wrote Waugh. “I feel that trying to make this political in any way devalues even more the people who were personally affected by this.”
Miller accused Jordan’s accusers of “looking for a quick infusion of money.”
And Picolo and Stickley denied any knowledge of inappropriate behavior by Strauss. Mondalek, however, said Strauss “conducted his transgressions behind closed doors.” He said he never told anyone except his father and did not specify what the transgressions were.
“I absolutely believe that Jim Jordan had zero idea about Dr Strauss’s behavior,” he said.
Separately, Republican members of the House Freedom Caucus — the conservative organization Jordan helped to found — as well as House Majority Whip Steve Scalise also issued statements of support for Jordan.
Rep. Jim Renacci, who is running for Senate against Sen. Sherrod Brown, did not outright defend Jordan in a press conference this morning but said, “what we really need to do is let the facts come out and see where we end up.” Renacci, a Wadsworth Republican, said he knows and likes Jordan.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said officials from Ohio State contacted him Friday to ensure him that they were doing a “comprehensive and thorough” investigation into Strauss.
“I think the allegations have been categorically denied by Congressman Jordan,” he said, adding that Jordan “is also cooperating fully with the investigation, so that’s all I know about it at this point.”
(Marty Schladen contributed to this report.)