U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, the Urbana, Ohio, Republican who heads the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, and is a possible candidate for Speaker of the House, is either a victim, a liar, or a man sinking into the quicksand of confused and conflicting memory.
None are good options for an ambitious politician.
And all are real possibilities. Moreover, this accusation comes at a suspect moment — when Mr. Jordan is a lead House investigator of abuses of power at the FBI. You have to wonder why these accusations came out now.
Let’s not rush to judgment, but let the full story unfold.
Mr. Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University when a now-dead team doctor, Richard Strauss, is accused of either assaulting or attempting to assault several of the players he treated.
During Mr. Jordan’s tenure as an assistant coach, 1986 to 1994, it was supposedly common knowledge that Dr. Strauss was taking advantage of his position of power to grope and ogle wrestlers sent to him for examination. Dr. Strauss supposedly also spent an inordinate amount of time in the showers and somehow facilitated other non-wrestlers in being in the shower area when they had no business there.
Eight former wrestlers have now claimed that Mr. Jordan knew about the alleged groping and voyeurism of Dr. Strauss, who was team doctor from the mid-1970s to late 1990s.
Mr. Jordan has adamantly denied knowing about the allegations and he has organized other former coaches, as well as House colleagues, to defend his innocence and his honor.
At the same time, he has said, “Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse,” which suggests that he may have heard some talk about the doctor’s behavior, and either did not take it seriously or was unsure of what to do.
That, depending on further fact and context, may well be forgivable. Several of the former athletes have said as much. Not acceptable is Mr. Jordan calling the former wrestlers liars with a political motive, which he has done.
This story echoes other revolting sex abuse stories on American campuses, especially at Penn State under Joe Paterno.
However, there is far more that we do not know than what we do know at this stage. It seems both wise and fair for the press and the public not to prejudge this matter but to wait for the official findings of Ohio State, which has launched an investigation. Let’s see what OSU finds. It would be shocking if the university did not do a thorough job and was not transparent in its findings.
In the meantime, it should be said that even if Mr. Jordan knew about the abuse, it has no bearing on the FBI investigation.
Finally, Mr. Jordan might do himself and the alleged victims a great deal of good by meeting with them. He should take a page from the book of Pope Francis, who has educated himself about clergy sex abuse by actually spending time with the victims and hearing their stories. The victims in this case were people Mr. Jordan knew well and was responsible for mentoring.
We should assume that Jim Jordan is a man of good will, but also that the alleged victims of abuse by OSU’s wrestling team doctor are men of good will and that they have little to gain by telling what they remember to be true.
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