Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Tuesday denied reports that he “turned a blind eye” to alleged sexual abuse perpetrated against students by an Ohio State wrestling team doctor when the lawmaker coached at the university more than two decades ago.
“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,” Ian Fury, a spokesperson for Jordan, told Fox News.
Fury continued, “Despite claims to the contrary, Congressman Jordan’s office has not received a request for interview from the investigative team. We have demanded that they send us the supposed communication and remain willing to assist in any way that we can.”
Jordan was named by former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato as having known about the alleged abuse of athletes by Dr. Richard Strauss, who worked as the team doctor from the mid-1970s to late 1990s.
DiSabato, who was one of the first victims to report the alleged abuse that prompted Ohio State to open its own investigation, said he was disappointed by Jordan’s response and charged that the lawmaker was more interested in his own personal gain than in the safety of the athletes.
“He knew, did know, and it’s very disappointing that he has now denied knowledge, not once, but twice,” DiSabato said, according to the Dayton Daily News. “I’ve never known Jim Jordan to be a coward, frankly, but this shows that his own interest in seeking higher office is more important than the health, safety and well being of his friends and athletes who competed for him and with him.”
Jordan was the assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State between 1986 and 1994 and his denial of knowing about the abuse has been met with incredulity from another former wrestler at the school.
“I remember I had a thumb injury and went into Strauss’ office and he started pulling down my wrestling shorts,” Dunyasha Yetts, who wrestled at Ohio State in 1993 and 1994, told NBC News. “I’m like, what the f--- are you doing? And I went out and told Russ and Jim what happened. I was not having it. They went in and talked to Strauss.”
Yetts added that the student athletes approached Jordan numerous times 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.
Jordan, a six-term Ohio congressman and member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, is contemplating running for the House Speaker post after current Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., retires at the end of his term.
“These are serious allegations and issues. The university has rightfully initiated a full investigation into the matter. The speaker will await the findings of that inquiry,” Ryan's spokesman, Doug Andres, told Fox News.
Democrat Janet Garrett, who is running against Jordan in the November election, said in a statement that "any allegation of sexual abuse against minors — or complicity regarding such abuse — is very serious. That damage cannot be undone…. Ohio State has an obligation to get to the bottom of this with a thorough and fair investigation. Jim Jordan has an obligation to cooperate fully with that investigation.”
Male athletes from 14 sports at Ohio State have reported alleged sexual misconduct by Strauss, who was on the faculty and medical staff and published a variety of research.
Ohio State has not released details about the claims but said more than 150 former students and witnesses have been interviewed so far. The school has urged anyone with information about Strauss to contact the independent investigators from Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie.
A statement from the school said it is "deeply concerned for everyone who may have been affected by his actions" and remains "steadfastly committed to uncovering the truth."
Strauss died in 2005, and his death was ruled a suicide.
Fox News' Anne Ball, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report