Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) accused a former Ohio State University wrestler of having a “vendetta” against his family Friday as he stood by his statements that he knew nothing about alleged sexual abuse in the school’s athletic department three decades ago.
The influential House conservative has been embroiled in controversy over allegations that he turned a blind eye to groping, public masturbation and other sexual misconduct while he was assistant coach of the Ohio State wrestling team from 1987 to 1995. The charges come at a delicate time for Jordan as he faces pressure to launch a bid for speaker of the House.
Jordan consistently denied seeing, knowing or hearing about any sexual misconduct as more accounts surfaced this week. The six-term congressman has called the timing of the allegations “suspect,” suggesting it was tied to chatter about his leadership ambitions and a tense exchange between him and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein that was recently covered in the media.
On Friday evening, Jordan said he would meet with investigators next week and singled out Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler who has given multiple interviews saying Jordan knew about the alleged abuse.
Speaking on Fox News, Jordan questioned DiSabato’s truthfulness and personal conduct.
“What bothers me the most is the guys that are saying this thing, I know they know the truth,” Jordan said in the interview. “I know they do. … I know they know what they’re saying is not accurate.”
“He’s out to get Ohio State,” Jordan said of DiSabato. “He has a vendetta against our family.”
DiSabato, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment when reached by email.
At least five former wrestlers have said they were involved in conversations with Jordan about sexual abuse by Richard Strauss, an athletic doctor who spent time in the locker room with the wrestling team. Strauss, who died in 2005, is accused of sexual misconduct that included inappropriately touching athletes during exams. Two law firms are now involved in an investigation of his behavior on behalf of the school.
DiSabato has called Jordan a “liar” for denying that he was aware of the abuse. His comments, along with those of two other former wrestlers, were first reported Tuesday by NBC News.
“He knew,” DiSabato told The Washington Post this week. “That’s not a question. Why he had a spokesman put out misinformation is frankly beyond comprehension, because is he the target of this? No. It was common knowledge and he knew.”
Former wrestlers have said Ohio State’s locker room showers and sauna attracted faculty members and others who were interested in seeing the wrestlers unclothed. One former wrestling coach, who spoke with Politico on the condition of anonymity, called it “a cesspool of deviancy.”
Jordan seemed to allow that he may have been part of the locker-room conversations about misconduct described by several former wrestlers. But he quickly repeated that he never heard about anything that would constitute abuse, then or now.
“Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse,” he told Fox News. Asked later whether he heard wrestlers talking about misconduct that fell short of the common definition of sexual abuse at the time but could be considered abuse today, Jordan issued a flat denial, saying he “did not, did not” hear anything.