Six former Ohio State University wresting coaches defended Rep. Jim Jordan on Monday against accusations the GOP lawmaker ignored complaints of abuse by a team doctor when he was an assistant coach there.
“I fully believe that Jim did not know of any allegations of sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss at the Ohio State University,” former OSU assistant coach Rex Holman said in a letter released Monday signed by four other assistant coaches and a former head coach. “Jim is a leader that was very protective of his athletes. He would ask how you were doing in an effort to understand your mental state. It wasn’t a formality, but a genuine request to communicate. He wanted to make sure you were OK and help problem solve.”
A group of former college wrestlers has accused the Ohio Republican of failing to act on talk of the abuse during Jordan’s time coaching at the school, which lasted from 1987 until 1995.
Two people with ties to Democrats have called for an investigation by the outside Office of Congressional Ethics, which can refer complaints to the House Ethics Committee.
Jordan said no wrestler ever approached him to complain about abuse and called the accusations “false,” during a Fox News interview.
Jordan is a founder and leading lawmaker on the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative faction that often bucks the GOP leadership in an effort to push the agenda to the right.
He said he will run for speaker if the House keeps the majority in 2018. Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is retiring and a Jordan candidacy would make it harder for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to succeed him.
Jordan is also a member of the House Oversight Committee and has clashed with the Department of Justice over the probe into alleged collusion between President Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
Jordan’s defenders believe the accusations are politically motivated and tied to his leadership aspirations and his fights with the DOJ.
“At no time while Jim Jordan was a coach with me at Ohio State did either of us ignore abuse of our wrestlers. That is not the kind of man Jim is, and it is not the kind of coach that I was,” former University of Ohio State head wrestling coach Russ Hellickson said.