Fox News on Friday suggested one of the wrestlers accusing Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) of ignoring sexual abuse claims at Ohio State had a “credibility problem” because he was recently released from jail.
Guest host Leland Vittert, filling in for America’s Newsroom anchor Bill Hemmer, was speaking with a panel of media guests during a segment of the show’s second hour about recent allegations against Jordan by former Ohio State wrestlers who claim he was dismissive of sex abuse claims involving former team doctor Richard Strauss in the 1990s. Jordan, an assistant coach there at the time, has denied the allegations, saying he was unaware of the sex abuse claims.
Strauss died in 2005.
“…You have the accusations going back more than a decade against Jim Jordan. How do you prove whether any of this is true?” Vittert asked the panel Friday. “You certainly think the timing is coincidental.”
James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal responded, suggesting Jordan may have made “a lot of enemies in Washington, often for good reason [because] he has been quite persistent demanding accountability out of federal agencies,” and adding that the case against him was likely shaky at best.
Vittert agreed, saying the issue was “interesting.”
“The one wrestler who claims that he directly reported this to Jim Jordan also reportedly had just gotten out of 18 months in jail for bilking investors out of about $2 million. Credibility problem […]?” he said.
Vitter appeared to be referring to a report published Thursday by the conservative Daily Caller, which noted two of Jordan’s accusers, Mike DiSabato and Dunyasha Yetts, had histories of engaging in troubling business dealings. Yetts previously served 18 months in prison for his part in a $1.8 million fraud scheme during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Both men, who wrestled for the school in the early ’90s, have blamed Jordan for allegedly taking part in a cover-up scheme to hide Strauss’ alleged sexual abuse.
Yetts, for his part, did speak briefly about his time in prison when reached by NBC News reporters for an interview earlier in the week. “I am not a perfect person, but ask any of the wrestlers and they will tell you everybody knew about Doc,” he said.
Referring to Jordan, he added, “He’s a great guy. We would have all these great talks with him and he talked about how one day he’d be the president of the United States. So it’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.”
The first allegations against Jordan came earlier in the week on Tuesday, after NBC News published a report detailing DiSabato, Yetts, and a third unnamed teammate’s claims. On Thursday, two more wrestlers accused Jordan of allegedly covering up the sex abuse, bringing the total number of accusers to five.
The congressman has denied the allegations, telling Politico Tuesday that he “never knew about any type of abuse,” and saying that, if he had, he “would have done something about it.”
In separate comments to CNN, Jordan appeared to suggest the allegations may be part of a larger scheme to ruin his career.
“Look, the timing makes you wonder,” he told CNN Wednesday, during a Fourth of July event. “All I know is, it’s not true. It’s interesting that the timing is what it is, in light of things that are going on in Washington.”
As ThinkProgress previously noted, Jordan has long been thought to be a top contender to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan, once Ryan steps down in November, and enjoys the full support of several high-profile members of Congress, as well as the president himself.
“I don’t believe [the accusers] at all,” President Trump said, speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One, on his way to a rally in Montana Thursday night. “Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington and I believe him 100 percent.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) also threw his weight and that of the House Freedom Caucus, which he chairs, behind Jordan this week. “The accusations that have been made by these couple of people who I don’t know are…not consistent with the Jim Jordan I’ve come to know and admire and certainly not consistent what Jim espouses every day when nobody’s looking,” Meadows said, speaking with the Washington Examiner. “He’s a seeker of truth and justice and it’s just not consistent with anything.”
He added, “We not only stand by him, but believe him to be a man of character and honor, and Congress would be well served to have more Jim Jordans serving on Capitol Hill.”
The allegations against Jordan come at a pivotal moment, as the country wrestles with a wave of similar abuse allegations against public figures, part of the larger #MeToo movement. Earlier this year, former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was also convicted of sexually assaulting hundreds of young athletes and sentenced to 175 years in prison.