Rep. Jim Jordan, an influential House conservative, denied claims Tuesday that he knew about alleged sexual abuse of wrestlers at Ohio State University three decades ago and failed to act.
Jordan (R-Ohio) responded after two former Ohio State wrestlers told NBC News on the record that he must have known about abuse allegations against Richard Strauss, a former doctor in Ohio State’s athletics department. Jordan served as assistant wrestling coach at the university from 1987 to 1995.
“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 spokesman for Jordan, said in a statement.
Former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato told NBC News that Jordan is a “liar” for saying he did not know about the alleged abuse.
“He knew,” DiSabato said in a brief phone interview with The Post. “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.”
DiSabato said he was first abused by Strauss at 14 as a high school wrestler. He said he believes Strauss abused 1,000-2,000 young athletes.
“He was Larry Nassar before Larry Nassar,” DiSabato said, referring to the disgraced former sports physician who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing girls and young women.
The allegations come at a critical time for Jordan, whom conservative outside groups have endorsed as a possible replacement for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who is not running for reelection. Jordan has not directly expressed interest in the job, but his support from fellow conservatives should he decide to run could frustrate possible bids in the next Congress by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
Fury said Jordan was willing to cooperate with the investigation but had not been contacted about an interview, a point disputed by the law firm appointed by the Ohio attorney general’s office to represent Ohio State in the matter.
“He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice,” Fury stated.
A partner with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur said the investigative team had in fact reached out to Jordan about an interview by email and phone.
“To date, Rep. Jordan has not responded to those requests,” Kathleen Trafford said in a statement provided by Ohio State.
Fury said Jordan’s office was unable to locate any messages from Trafford. “I’m not sure where that’s coming from,” he told The Post. “Like we said in the statement, we’ve not been reached out to for an interview.”
Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan, said in a statement Tuesday, “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.”
Jordan, who served in the Ohio state legislature, was elected to the House in 2006 and has played a role in virtually every debate pitting conservative insurgents against House Republican leaders. A senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he chaired the Republican Study Committee in 2011 and 2012 and helped found the conservative House Freedom Caucus in 2015.
Jordan has denied that he knew about allegations of abuse by Strauss, who joined Ohio State’s clinical faculty in 1978 and served as a team physician in the athletics department from 1981 to 1995 before retiring in 1998.
Strauss is alleged to have abused male athletes participating in 14 sports, as well as patients at the student health center, where he was a part-time physician between 1994 and 1996. Strauss died in 2005.
Former Ohio State wrestlers have said the team doctor showered with students and inappropriately touched them during appointments. In a video shared with NBC, former head wrestling coach Russ Hellickson said he confronted Strauss and told school officials.
Another former wrestler, Dunyasha Yetts, told NBC that he and other students reported Strauss’s alleged behavior to Jordan. He said Strauss tried to pull down his wrestling shorts when Yetts visited him about a thumb injury. Yetts said he reported what happened to Hellickson and Jordan.
“They went in and talked to Strauss. . . . So it’s sad for me to hear that he’s denying knowing about Strauss,” Yetts told NBC.
Attempts to reach Yetts were not successful Tuesday. A Twitter account that appeared to be DiSabato’s retweeted the NBC News story Tuesday. “THE VICTIMS OF SYSTEMIC SEXUAL ASSAULT at THE @OhioState will be HEARD LOUD & VERY CLEAR!” the post read.
The law firm Perkins Coie was hired by Porter Wright to conduct an independent investigation into Strauss’s behavior.