Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is thought to be a contender to assume a top leadership position within the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives after Rep. Paul Ryan’s tenure as Speaker ends. He has the support of the far-right fringes of the Republican party, and his full-throated defense of Donald Trump has endeared him to the likes of white supremacists like Sean Hannity.
His rise through the GOP ranks hit a snag this week though after a report surfaced alleging Jordan enabled the sexual assault of hundreds of student-athletes at Ohio State University, where he used to serve as an assistant wrestling coach.
Jordan’s case has glaring similarities between the two most well-known sexual abuse cases in college sports — Jerry Sandusky at Penn State and Larry Nassar at Michigan State.
Jordan, a two-time NCAA champion wrestler, worked with the OSU wrestling team from 1986 to 1994. During that time, Dr. Richard Strauss — who committed suicide in 2005 — allegedly sexually assaulted hundreds of student-athletes. According to a new report by NBC News, Jordan knew about this abuse, and did nothing to stop it.
In April, allegations against Strauss by former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato prompted Ohio State to open an investigation into Strauss, who was the wrestling team doctor from the mid-1970s until the late 1990s.
DiSabato told NBC News reporter Corky Siemaszko that he reached out to Jordan before going public with the allegations, but Jordan told him to “please leave me out of it.”
“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” DiSabato said. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.”
Jordan is a staunch conservative whose website boasts that he is “standing up for our families and our values!” Additionally, his biography on his website says that his “background as a four-time state champion and two-time NCAA champion in the sport of wrestling helped prepare him to take on some of the toughest political opponents in Washington.”
Jordan continues to deny that he had any knowledge of Strauss’s abuse during his tenure at Ohio State.
“Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State,” Jordan’s spokesman, Ian Fury, told NBC News.
But former wrestlers say that’s a lie. Dunyasha Yetts, a wrestler on the OSU team in 1993 and 1994, told Siemaszko that he and multiple other wrestlers told Jordan about Strauss’s abuse. “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.
The allegations against Jordan also harken back to another powerful House Republican: Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House who for years molested young boys and teenagers while he worked as a high school teacher…and wrestling coach. Hastert, unlike Jordan, was accused of committing the abuse himself, and was ultimately imprisoned after he resigned from Congress.
Currently, there are almost 350 known victims of Nassar’s abuse. Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of abuse. According to one of his alleged victims, Strauss may have abused five times as many victims as Nassar and Sandusky combined.
In a letter he sent to Ohio State investigators in June, DiSabato alleges that Strauss sexually assaulted male athletes in at least 15 varsity sports during his 20 years at OSU. He estimates that “based on testimony from victim athletes,” that Strauss sexually assaulted and/or raped around 2,000 student-athletes during his tenure.
Ohio State has confirmed its investigators have received reports of sexual misconduct by Strauss from former athletes in 14 different sports, as well as from former patients he saw through his role at student health services.
DiSabato says that it was common knowledge that Strauss would shower with the players for hours, and adds that he was not alone — after practice, professors and administrators from across the university would show up in shower stalls at the exact same time as the athletes, turning the showers into “the gauntlet of sexual deviancy.”
While the student-athletes Struass allegedly sexually abused appear to be older than the children that Sandusky typically molested, DiSabato said the former trainer would prey on kids from small towns who were terrified of losing their scholarships, and were less likely to report Strauss’s abuse.
And like Nassar, the former team doctor at Michigan State University, Strauss would also abuse athletes and patients under the guise of medical treatment.
“Everybody knew before you were going into the [examination] room that Doc Strauss was going to touch you,” DiSabato said. “It was like a joke before you went in there.”
DiSabato says seeing Nassar brought to justice encouraged him to come forward. Another victim said he just wanted to see the culture of abuse stop once and for all.
“Why am I doing this now? It’s just hard,” he said. “I don’t want this to ever have to happen to anybody else, ever … at The Ohio State University or any school.”