U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan offered an extended and impassioned defense Friday night against accusations that he knew of abuse perpetrated by a doctor for Ohio State’s wrestling team but did nothing.
“If I had known, I would’ve dealt with it,” Jordan, an Urbana Republican, told Fox News host Bret Baier on Baier’s show, “Special Report with Bret Baier.” “A good coach puts the interests of his student athletes first. I would’ve dealt with it if I’d known anything happened.”
He was reacting to a July 3 NBC report that three wrestlers accused him of knowing about sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, a doctor for Ohio State University who killed himself in 2005. Ohio State launched an investigation into possible abuse by Strauss in April.
His interview with Fox News capped an emotional week: His son got married last Saturday and on Thursday his nephew, Eli Stickley, a wrestler for the University of Wisconsin, died in a car crash in Illinois.
In his interview with Baier, Jordan made a distinction between “conversations in the locker room” and abuse, saying overhearing chatter in the locker room “is a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse.”
Jordan also questioned the credibility of two of the five former wrestlers who’ve accused him of not reporting the abuse. He noted that Dunyasha Yetts has had legal troubles and Mike DiSabato has had a long-running feud with Ohio State University. Yetts served 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal mail fraud charges, and DiSabato has been involved in legal battles with Ohio State after losing his licensing agreement with the university.
“What bothers me the most is that the guys that are saying these things, I know they know the truth,” Jordan said. “I know they do.”
He also insisted accusations by former OSU wrestlers Shawn Dailey and Mark Coleman that he knew of abuse “are not accurate.”
Jordan questioned the timing of the story coming out, saying it happened roughly a week after Jordan grilled deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein over an investigation into whether Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election and just as Jordan is considering a run for speaker.
And he called Perkins Coie, one of the law firms linked with the OSU investigation into whether there was abuse “Hillary Clinton’s law firm.” He said he found it odd that the same law firm that found a former British spy who had a dossier on now-President Donald Trump couldn’t find an accurate email address to contact Jordan to talk about the investigation. Jordan said he would likely talk to OSU investigators about allegations against Strauss next week.
His defense came on the same day that a fifth former OSU wrestler accused Jordan of knowing about allegations of sexual abuse by Strauss when Strauss was a sports doctor for Ohio State University.
“There’s no way unless he’s got dementia or something that he’s got no recollection of what was going on at Ohio State,” Mark Coleman told the Wall Street Journal in a story published Friday. “I have nothing but respect for this man, I love this man, but he knew as far as I’m concerned.”
Coleman, a former UFC world champion, is now one of five former wrestlers who say that Jordan, an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University in the 1980s and 1990s, was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by Strauss.
Coleman had earlier discussed his abuse by Strauss in a video produced by those accusing Strauss of improper conduct. In the video, he discussed receiving a physical from Strauss that involved the doctor touching him inappropriately. “I never had a physical like this before,” he said.
But Coleman did not mention Jordan in that video.
Separately, the Associated Press reported that in all, seven former athletes and a former nursing student shared detailed allegations of sexual misconduct dating back to the 1970s against Strauss.
The eight men, including three who didn't want their names made public, say they want to see anyone who ignored concerns about Strauss held accountable and hope to make sure something similar doesn’t happen to others.
They described how Strauss fondled them during medical exams and ogled naked young men, sometimes showering among athletes multiple times a day for no apparent reason or perching himself on a stool to stare. Some said Strauss groped them barehanded during physicals, had them drop their pants even while examining them for a cough or heartburn, and badgered students to go home with him.
Two of the athletes who spoke to the AP say Strauss wasn’t stopped even after they complained — one to a coach and another to a school physician.
Former wrestling team captain Dave Mulvin said he raised concerns in the late 1970s, when Strauss fondled him during an exam that Mulvin abruptly ended, telling the doctor his behavior was “weird.” Mulvin said he went to the student health center to finish the exam and complained about Strauss to another doctor, who shrugged it off.
Some athletes saw it as the price of getting medicine or treatment. Nick Nutter, an All-America wrestler in the 1990s, said he constantly did a calculation before deciding whether to see Strauss: “Is this injury bad enough that I’m going to get molested for it?”
Dailey, meanwhile, confirmed to The Dispatch he was groped half a dozen times by Strauss while Jordan was the assistant wrestling coach. Dailey told NBC News he was too embarrassed to report the abuse directly to Jordan at the time, but he said Jordan took part in conversations where Strauss’ abuse of many other team members came up.
Dailey, questioning Jordan’s denials of knowing about the abuse, corroborated an account by Yetts that he'd protested to Jordan and head coach Russ Hellickson after Strauss tried to pull down his shorts when Yetts saw the doctor for a thumb injury.
“Dunyasha comes back and tells Jimmy, ‘Seriously, why do I have to pull down my pants for a thumb injury?’" Dailey recalled to NBC news. “Jimmy said something to the extent of, ‘If he tried that with me, I would kill him.’”
Clarifying his account to The Dispatch, Dailey said he had been close to Jordan while at Ohio State, but that he’d “not maintained regular contact with him” since.
“It’s not that I think someone went to Jim and said ‘I’ve been assaulted,’ and he ignored it, I think it’s that there were warning signs that were missed,” Dailey said.
Other former wrestlers expressed skepticism that abuse occurred.
Phil Anglim, who wrestled for the Buckeyes from 1978-81, said he was not aware of any abuse at Ohio State by Strauss.
The era was different and far less politically correct. While they talked — and joked — openly about Strauss’ suspected homosexuality, Anglim is skeptical of the prospect that the diminutive Strauss could’ve assaulted one of the wrestlers if he’d tried.
“This is not Larry Nassar, Michigan State stuff,” he said, referring to the former gymnastics coach sentenced to prison for abusing numerous girls and young women.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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