This is the week we are learning whether Rep. Jim Jordan's (R-Ohio) sort-of denials and “they're-out-to-get-me” theories are enough to keep his political future intact amid allegations he knew about alleged sexual misconduct at Ohio State University decades ago and did nothing about it.
So far the answer is: Yup. As Congress returns for the first time since the accusations against Jordan broke, more than three dozen House GOP lawmakers, including the conservative group Jordan helped found, defended him. The No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 in the House all say they believe Jordan. President Trump was one of the first to defend him.
That should hearten Jordan. Absent irrefutable evidence backing Jordan's accusers, this is an early sign he could survive these allegations just fine.
A lot is on the line for him. Jordan is considering a run to be House Republicans' leader after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) retires this year. If Jordan survives this, it would be a rarity in the #MeToo era: So far, nine members of Congress have lost their jobs over misconduct incidents.
Defenses of Jordan fall into two main categories:
- Jordan is an honest person, so they believe him when he says he did not know about the alleged sexual misconduct.
- The more dubious claim that this is a political attack derived by Jordan's opponents to knock his star down as it starts to rise.
Let's run down the notable political defenders Jordan has already collected and why they might be defending him. This controversy is not over, but compared with the lawmakers who have lost their jobs over sex-related scandals in the #MeToo era, Jordan seems in a much stronger position.
Trump: “I don’t believe them at all, I believe him. I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind.” — to reporters last week
The context: Trump has been quick to defend men in his orbit accused of behaving badly, so this is not a surprise. The president faces sexual harassment allegations of his own.
Ryan: After initially calling the allegations “serious,” the House speaker changed his tune after talking to Jordan over the weekend. Ryan told reporters Thursday Jordan is “a man of honesty” known for his “integrity.”
The context: Ryan has not been as explicit as other lawmakers on this list in defending Jordan, but he did give Jordan a major boost Thursday by calling him honest. Ryan also made clear the House's bipartisan ethics committee probably would not look into this, as some watchdogs have asked, saying the committee has no jurisdiction. Ohio State is conducting an independent investigation into a former sports doctor accused of groping wrestlers in the 1980s and 1990s, around the time Jordan was a coach.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif:): “I believe Jim when he says if faced with charges of abuse, he absolutely would have acted.” — part of a statement Tuesday
The context: McCarthy is No. 2 and is the front-runner to replace Ryan as speaker, if the Republicans maintain control of the House. It is a political reality McCarthy will need a chunk of support from Jordan's conservative wing of the party to get the job — and Jordan is a potential competitor for it.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.): “I have always known Jim Jordan to be honest, and I’m confident he would stand up for his athletes, just like he’s always stood up for what’s right.” — part of a statement Monday
The context: Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, was first GOP leader in Congress to defend Jordan. As Politico points out, Scalise survived a potential political scandal of his own a few years ago when it was revealed he delivered a speech to a white supremacist group. Republican leaders vouched for Scalise when he said he does not share those views.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.): “I have always known Jim Jordan to be a man of the utmost character, honor and integrity. As the independent investigation is concluded, I’m confident people will learn the truth and it will confirm all he has said about the situation. I’m proud to stand by Jim Jordan and support him 100 percent.” — a statement Monday
The context: Meadows is the current chairman of the group Jordan helped found, so his backing is not a surprise. On Tuesday the House Freedom Caucus voted unanimously to officially support Jordan. Any other result would have been a disaster for Jordan.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.): “I tend to believe that Jim Jordan is an honest person who wouldn’t accept that if that was happening around him.” — to reporters Tuesday
The context: Brady is chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, so his backing of Jordan is notable. It suggests Jordan has support from the more mainstream Republican establishment in the House, too.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.): “Unlike the Olympians who were minor children at the time they were abused, these former wrestlers were adults at the time they claim they were sexually abused by the Ohio State team doctor . . . Perkins Coie boasts a client roster that includes the DNC, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and several Democrat Members of Congress.” — part of a statement Monday
The context: Gohmert is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, so it is not surprising he is backing Jordan. But it is surprising how he is doing it. Gohmert picked up on Jordan's evidence-free musings that these accusations are a political hit job on him.
Perkins Coie is conducting the Ohio State investigation into the former sports doctor, and Gohmert and Jordan have made the connection that the law firm represented Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign. It ended retaining an intelligence firm to conduct research on Trump, research that eventually led to a dossier alleging Trump's campaign colluded with Russia.
Here is the problem with that: Despite Perkins Coie's political work, there is absolutely no evidence the independent investigation going on at Ohio State is politically motivated. Plus, there is no evidence any of Jordan's accusers have political motivations. Five of the seven have said they like Jordan or consider him a friend. One says he even donated to one of Jordan's first campaigns.
Still, despite some of Jordan's defenders jumping to conclusions, he has got a lot of notable political backers to help him weather this storm.
Erica Werner contributed to this report.