Amid Ohio State abuse investigation, Rep. Jordan faces questions about what he knew
Rep. Jim Jordan’s office will contact Capitol Hill police after receiving emails from an alleged victim of sexual abuse at Ohio State University when the Ohio Republican was an assistant wrestling coach, a source within the office told CNN Wednesday.
The source added that the messages were vaguely threatening in nature in part because of the amount of emails sent, and that Jordan did not respond to the emails because he felt the man was “bullying him.”
Email correspondence from alleged victim and former Ohio State wrestler Michael DiSabato to the congressman obtained by CNN shows that he sent Jordan an email on April 24 expressing concerns about the sexual abuse scandal, and asked Jordan to help given his knowledge of it. DiSabato told CNN there was no response.
NBC News first reported allegations on Tuesday that the powerful Ohio congressman was aware of allegations that Dr. Richard Strauss was molesting members of the wrestling team when he was an assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994, but that he ignored those claims of abuse.
CNN has not confirmed all of the details of the NBC report. Jordan and his office have continually denied that he knew of any such behavior.
DiSabato had been sending emails for a few months, the source said, adding that the congressman didn’t respond to the emails because he didn’t want to encourage the behavior.
DiSabato told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on “Newsroom” Wednesday that the idea that his messages to the congressman amounted to bullying is “laughable.”
“Jim Jordan is a world-caliber athlete who is very aggressive in his actions … he’s a bulldog, let’s be honest,” DiSabato said during an interview. “So for him to say he was being bullied by Mike DiSabato is somewhat laughable.”
He added, “I think Jim is in a position where he doesn’t know what to say now.”
Speaking to reporters at a Fourth of July celebration in Fremont, Ohio, earlier on Wednesday, Jordan said he last spoke with DiSabato early this spring but that he had been emailed as recently as 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The investigative team looking into the allegations of sexual abuse said Tuesday they had reached out to Jordan by email and phone asking for interviews. In a letter obtained by CNN, legal counsel for Ohio State said that to date Jordan has not responded to their requests. Jordan’s office said Wednesday it has still not found any communications from the investigators. The chief of staff reached out to investigators Tuesday to clarify whether there were any but has yet to hear back.
In Fremont, Jordan said he “never knew of any abuse from Dr. Strauss, plain and simple.”
“We knew of no abuse, never heard of abuse. If we had, we would have reported it,” Jordan said. “If, in fact, there’s problems, we want justice for the people who were victims, obviously, and as I said, we are happy to talk with the folks who are doing the investigation. But the things they said about me just were flat-out not true.”
Jordan acknowledged he was aware that Strauss did shower with the team, but described that as just the nature of how the facility was set up.
“We had a separate locker room, but the shower facility was sort of in the general area,” the congressman said. When a reporter asked if the doctor showered with the team, he responded, “Yes, he would do that, but there were faculty, staff, other students — that was just the nature of how the arrangement was.”
Jordan ‘knew it all,’ alleged victim says
DiSabato, a former wrestler at OSU, told CNN Tuesday there is no question in his mind that Jordan “knew it all.” He added that during his time at OSU, Strauss’ alleged abuse of athletes was widely known and discussed.
“We trained every day together. His (Jordan’s) locker was located next to Doc Strauss. It was a common uncomfortable joke that Doc was a serial groper,” DiSabato said. “Doc likes to hold your penis. Everyone knew it.”
DiSabato told CNN he had been groped by Strauss dozens of times.
“I never saw Doc Strauss over a nine-year time frame where he didn’t ask me to — where I went to see him for medicine or whatever, finger injury, shoulder, knee — where he did not want to examine my testicles,” he said. “He groped. Every time.”
Ohio State University announced in April it was investigating allegations that Strauss, who died in 2005, had abused team members from the mid-1970s to late 1990s. Three former wrestlers told NBC News it was known that the doctor would shower regularly with the students and touch them inappropriately during appointments.
When stories about the investigation became public this spring, Jordan told The Columbus Dispatch, “I had not heard about any type of abuse at all,” adding that “no one reported any type of abuse” to him.
Jordan is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, an influential group of Republicans who are known as the most conservative members on the Hill. He has been “encouraged by some of his colleagues” to consider a run for House speaker, according to caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, called the accusations against Jordan “serious” and said they should be investigated.
“These are serious allegations and issues,” Doug Andres told CNN in a statement. “The university has rightfully initiated a full investigation into the matter. The speaker will await the findings of that inquiry.”