The conservative House Freedom Caucus voted on Tuesday to officially support Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, a man who has been accused of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse in his former position at Ohio State University. The vote was unanimous and reveals where the the Republican congress’s support lies in the midst of the #MeToo movement.
Trump was the first to defend Jordan to reporters last week when he said, “I don’t believe them at all. I believe him. Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington. I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind. I believe Jim Jordan 100 percent. He’s an outstanding man.”
Multiple Republican congressmen had already released statements in support of Jordan but the vote declared official support from the entire Caucus. Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania said, “I’ve know Mr. Jordan now for 5 and a half years. He’s the paragon of honesty and integrity. He’s the guy, when there’s an injustice, he goes after it. He doesn’t wait for it to happen and hope it stumbles into it. ... I think that says everything.”
The allegations against Jordan center on events that took place over two decades ago. From 1987 to 1995, Jordan served as the assistant wrestling coach at the university. During that time, Dr. Richard Strauss, who died in 2005 by suicide, was the medical doctor for the athletic department. Athletes from 14 different sports have accused Strauss of sexual abuse, including the wrestling team that Jordan coached. In April, the university announced an investigation into the sexual abuse allegations.
At the beginning of July, over a dozen of the former wrestlers that were coached by Jordan accused him of knowing about the sexual abuse but not doing anything to stop it. Jordan denies all of the accusations. Some former wrestlers and Ohio State coaches have publicly defended Jordan and denied the accusations as well. On Monday, a request was filed to the Office of Congressional Ethics to formally begin a preliminary investigation into the accusations against Jordan. The request was filed by President Barack Obama’s ethics czar Norm Eisen and the president of Democracy 21 Fred Wertheimer.
One former wrestler, Michael Alf, claimed Jordan overheard locker room talk about the sexual abuse. Alf gave an example of the locker room talk: “If someone said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go see Doc Strauss,’ it would be like, ‘Oh, prepare to drop your pants. That was the locker room talk. I’m going to see Doc Strauss. It was always the joke, prepare to drop your pants. We kind of all said it.”
In an interview with Fox News, Jordan said, “Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse. No one ever reported any abuse to me.” When asked if he heard about the abuse in the locker room later in the interview, he went on to deny hearing anything in the locker room. He said, “No. No. No — no type of abuse. We did not hear that. And if we had, we would have dealt with it.”
However, a former wrestler who chose to keep his identity anonymous said he directly told Jordan that Strauss was sexually abusing him. He said, “I remember coming up and saying, ‘Strauss held my balls longer than normal.’ He just snickered.” He went on to say he remembers telling Jordan, “something to the effect of ‘his hands are cold as s**t; he checked out every hair on my ball.’” He claims Jordan replied, “I have nothing to do with this.”
This unanimous support for Jordan from the Trump administration and conservative congressmen House Freedom Caucus is concerning. The conservative’s public statements to stand behind their fellow Republican come less than a week after Trump mocked the #MeToo movement at a rally in Montana. The international movement is allowing people to speak out about their experiences with sexual assault, harassment and abuse. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has been accused of these these acts, and are now supporting their accused peers.