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‘I would have done something’: Jordan rebuts claims he knew of abuse

Rep. Jim Jordan emphatically denied allegations that he intentionally overlooked widespread sexual abuse of wrestlers whom he coached decades ago, telling POLITICO in a Tuesday night interview that he would have taken action had he known of the alleged behavior.

The Ohio Republican, a former assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, refuted accusations that he was aware of the university’s sports physician molesting student-athletes. Three former team wrestlers told NBC News that Jordan knew about the alleged abuse — or would have had to been willfully ignorant not to be aware of what they called an open secret.

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But the co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus said his accusers are lying. Jordan said he would not have hesitated to come forward to report sexual abuse.

“It’s not true,” Jordan said. “I never knew about any type of abuse. If I did, I would have done something about it. And look, if there are people who are abused, then that’s terrible and we want justice to happen.”

In the NBC report, three former wrestlers who trained under Jordan — including two who were named in the story — accused Jordan of ignoring sexual abuse. They argued that it was common knowledge that the college physician, Richard Strauss, would regularly shower with the students and touch them inappropriately during examinations.

One former wrestler, Dunyasha Yetts, said he personally told Jordan about an instance in which the doctor pulled his pants down. He said Jordan responded by saying he’d “kill him“ if Strauss “tried anything with him.”

According to the story, the former head coach of the wrestling team, Russ Hellickson, said on a video recorded by one of the wrestlers that he told university administrators about Strauss’ inappropriate behavior and warned the doctor to stay away from his wrestlers.

But Jordan, who was Hellickson’s No. 2, said that was not his experience.

The controversy has the potential to engulf Jordan, a conservative firebrand, during the height of his political career.

Jordan has become one of the most powerful House Republicans, wielding influence that arguably rivals that of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). He commands the loyalty of several dozen conservative Republicans who often band together to demand concessions for their votes, bending leadership to their will. Jordan has entertained running for speaker or minority leader after Ryan retires.

Asked whether he‘s worried about the new allegations, Jordan said, “We’ve got the truth on our side.” Several of Jordan‘s allies also came to his defense privately, and said to expect a more robust response in the coming days.

Ohio State announced in April that it was investigating the allegations of abuse by Strauss, who died in 2005. The move came shortly before Michigan State University paid more than $ 500 million to the survivors of coach Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of young female gymnasts.

The former wrestler who played a central role in bringing the matter to the attention of Ohio State, Mike DiSabato, told NBC that Nassar’s conviction inspired him to come forward.

Both DiSabato and Yetts, the two former students who were named in the NBC story, have had run-ins with the law or the university.

Jim Jordan is pictured. | AP

DiSabato, a small business owner who sold athletic merchandise, did business with Ohio State for years after graduating until the university cut off his contract. He sued around that time and was also part of a class action lawsuit against the university, according to Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern.

Yetts served 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges in an investment scheme, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Multiple attempts to reach DiSabato went unanswered. Yetts could not be reached for comment.

Jordan also pushed back on suggestions from a law firm investigating the Strauss allegations that he had ignored inquiries about the abuse. Kathleen Trafford, a partner with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, provided a statement through Ohio State to The Washington Post stating that Jordan had not responded to emails or phone calls seeking an interview with him.

Jordan said his office had been looking for inquiries from the law firm and couldn’t find any. He reaffirmed statement his office made earlier in the day suggesting that he’d gladly answer questions had he been contacted.

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