Jim Jordan wants to be Speaker of the House.
That’s right, the man who once accused a nine-year-old child rape victim of “lying” about the incident in order to get an abortion wants to be third in line to run the United States of America. This is a terrible idea for lots of reasons, such as valuing intelligence, a moral compass, reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ rights, and the Constitution of the United States of America. But, hey, you can’t say Jordan isn’t representative of the rest of his party. Once the unhinged outlier, the GOP has lurched so far to the right that Jordan too often is treated like the adult in the room by the media, no matter how little he deserves that consideration. Oh, and then there’s all that pesky Jan. 6 stuff:
The Ohio right-winger is up to his neck in the unforgivable attack on our Capitol. He didn’t just amplify the baseless falsehoods of a “stolen election” at every opportunity to stoke MAGA rage until it exploded on Jan. 6. Jordan also worked zealously behind the scenes to try to steal a decided election for a megalomaniac who lost it fair and square. He advanced plans to scrap the people’s choice and install the loser by having the vice president simply discard electoral votes Republicans disapproved of. It was a sinister ploy to mortally wound our democratic republic. And almost did.
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If all that’s not enough to put you off Jordan, he’s also been endorsed by former president and quadruple indictee Donald Trump.
There was a time when attempting to overthrow a democratically elected government would have disqualified a politician from office, but those times are no more. Hell, alleged knowledge of a college sex abuse scandal and allegations of taking part in a cover-up may not be disqualifying in 2023, either, but we should at least be talking about it. I know that no one cared about a man literally admitting to sexually assaulting women on tape back in 2016 (how did this wind up worse for Billy Bush than for the guy actually doing the assaulting?), but this time there are male victims involved, so I have some hope.
Jim Jordan has repeatedly denied that he was aware that team doctor Richard Strauss was sexually abusing wrestlers while Jordan was an assistant coach with Ohio State University from 1987 to 1995, but that hasn’t stopped former wrestlers from insisting that he was.
In a 2018 lawsuit against the university, four former OSU wrestlers have accused Jordan of knowledge of Strauss’ abuse and failing to do anything to stop it. In 2019, an investigation found that Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, had abused 177 athletes during his time at the school, including 1,430 instances of fondling and 47 cases of rape. Ultimately, the school would pay $60 million to settle with 300 of Strauss’ victims, but in June, the Supreme Court allowed more than 230 additional victims to sue OSU.
In 2020, CNN spoke to six former OSU wrestlers who alleged that Jordan couldn’t not have known what was going on.
Tito Vazquez says he still remembers the day three decades ago when, as a wrestler at Ohio State University, the doctor he’d gone to see about a bloody nose insisted on examining his genitals. He also recalls how one of his coaches dismissed his immediate complaint.
“‘I have nothing to do with this,’” Vazquez quoted the assistant coach saying, as he effectively ended the conversation and went on with wrestling practice.
That coach, Vazquez says, was Jim Jordan, now an Ohio congressman and an influential voice in Republican politics, perhaps best known for his pugnacious defense of President Donald Trump during the recent impeachment proceedings.
But outside of the supposed documentary George Clooney was said to be producing about the allegations against Jordan and the social media users who continue to refer to him as “Gym Jordan,” the story has faded into the background, with Jordan escaping relatively unscathed.
This past week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer updated and re-published a piece from 2020, in which half a dozen former OSU wrestlers insist that Jordan was aware of the sexual abuse and did nothing. One former wrestler said that Jordan had to have known about Strauss’ abuse because it was so common. “Jordan definitely knew that these things were happening — yes, most definitely,” former OSU wrestler David Range told the Washington Post. “It was there. He knew about it because it was an everyday occurrence.”
Another wrestler during Jordan’s tenure, Dunyasha Yetts, says he “complained to Jordan and OSU’s chief wrestling coach, Russ Hellickson, after he went to see Strauss for a thumb injury and Strauss tried to pull down his pants.” Sean Daily, who also wrestled for OSU during Jordan’s time with the team, says that “Jordan took part in conversations where Strauss’ abuse of many other team members came up. Dailey said he was surprised to hear Jordan say he knew nothing about it.”
Then there was South Carolina congresswoman Nancy Mace getting ethered by social media for endorsing Jordan for Speaker and claiming ignorance of the allegations against him on Face the Nation, saying, “I’m not familiar or aware with that. He’s not indicted on anything that I’m aware of. I don’t know anything and can’t speak to that. What I do know is that I’ve been a very strong voice for women, I’ve talked to Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise about that. I’ve been a very strong advocate for rape victims, as you mentioned earlier.”
God Bless Margaret Brennan for even asking Mace the question, because outside the Plain Dealer re-upping a 2020 piece, the conversation around Jordan’s fitness to be third in line to the Oval Office has been shockingly devoid of discussion of his time at the Ohio State University.
What Jordan knew or didn’t know while at Ohio State has always been murky, with Jordan not helping much by first making himself scarce when OSU was investigating the Strauss allegations, and later claiming he had been “vindicated” by a report that found no proof that any coaches were aware of Strauss’ abuse, but did find that “Strauss, was ‘infatuated’ with the wrestling team and timed his workouts so he could shower with the wrestlers.” The same report stated that “dozens of other coaches acknowledged that rumors of the doctor’s predatory behavior were rife.”
It’s naive to ask why this kind of thing doesn’t matter to people anymore. Those of us who came of age in the 1980s and ‘90s can recall a time when even the whiff of a scandal was enough to scuttle a politician’s chances of higher office for good. After all, as mentioned above, Trump admitted on tape to sexually assaulting women and 52 percent of white women still voted for him. In this country, we hold up sexual assault as one of the most odious crimes a person can be associated with — there’s a reason Olivia Benson is so popular — yet we routinely dismiss allegations any time someone on our side (our political party, our favorite team, our favorite movie franchise) is accused. As the popular saying goes: Everyone knows someone who has been raped, but no one knows a rapist.
Frankly, whether Jordan was aware of what was going on at Ohio State doesn’t matter. Both contexts are equally disqualifying. Either Jordan did know that his athletes were being sexually abused and reported it to no one — which Jordan has denied — or he completely missed signs of rampant sexual abuse that athletes were, according to them, openly discussing in front of him. One of those scenarios is definitely worse than the other, but neither recommends that Jordan be anywhere near the nuclear launch codes.
A lot has happened in the past five years. We’ve lived through a presidency that resulted in multiple indictments of a former POTUS, a global pandemic, and an attempt to overthrow the United States government. A sexual abuse scandal from 2018 — what I like to refer to as “the before times” — almost seems quaint by comparison. But what happened to more than 300 men at Ohio State under the care of Dr. Richard Strauss matters. It should matter to Jordan, no matter his role and what he knew or didn’t know. It should matter to the media, whose job it is to shine a light on the darkest parts of our democracy and our leaders. And it should matter to you.