The allegations against Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) are troubling. NBC News broke the story last week: the top-ranking congressman was accused by three former college wrestlers of “turning a blind eye” to sexual abuse while working as assistant coach of the wrestling team at Ohio State University during his tenure decades ago.
From the beginning, Jordan not only denied the allegations but questioned the timing of what he would probably call a political hit job since the midterms are just months away and he was eyeing the speakership next year. Let’s look at the facts.
One Man’s Word Against Others’
Currently seven former wrestlers have come forward insisting that Jordan had to have known about the sexual abuse committed by the wrestling team’s doctor Richard Strauss, who died in 2005. Strauss’s misconduct allegedly took place between the mid-1970s to the late 1990s, but Ohio State didn’t launch an investigation into his conduct until April of this year. Jordan worked at the university from 1986 to 1994.
Because the events in question took place so long ago, the general public has to solely rely on what’s being said today. It’s Jordan’s word against these wrestlers. One told Politico that he once saw Jordan yell at a “male voyeur” to get out of the sauna (voyeurism was reportedly a major problem on campus), something Jordan’s office denied. If true, this does refute Jordan’s repeated insistence that he knew nothing about such inappropriate behavior having taken place.
However, the most vocal former wrestler, Michael DiSabato, has been telling the press that Jordan knew since he was part of the “locker room banter,” which apparently invoked Strauss’s behavior. Jordan acknowledged during an interview with Bret Baier that such banter took place, but stressed that “conversations in a locker room are a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse” and that abuse was never reported to him.
Jordan claims DiSabato has a “vendetta” against Ohio State over losing a licensing agreement, and invoked his arrest earlier this year. He also pointed out that Perkins Coie, the law firm Ohio State University obtained to launch this investigation, represented the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign in funding the Trump dossier provided by Fusion GPS, which has been the subject of major congressional inquiry.
Other Former Wrestlers Defend Jordan
What hasn’t been reported by the mainstream media are the former wrestlers who have come forward in defense of the congressman. One insisted the alleged stories being shared about Strauss were “running jokes” and that not only was Jordan incapable of ignoring such abuse, these wrestlers were also completely unaware that other teammates were abused.
Chances are there will be an ethics probe launched by Congress, which may take weeks if not months to conclude, which is a problem for Jordan heading into the midterms.
One of the core principles of our justice system is that you’re innocent until proven guilty. But in the wake of the #MeToo movement, a handful of allegations have been enough to destroy careers.
Jordan’s case is unique since he isn’t being accused of sexual misconduct himself but simply of knowing that it had taken place among his young wrestlers. If he did in fact turn a blind eye, then Jordan should be shamed out of office. So far, the lack of actual evidence is crucial for Jordan’s political future.
The truth could be muddled between the perspectives of Jordan and these wrestlers. Both sides have mentioned these “locker room” conversations, which appear to have invoked Strauss’s misconduct either casually or perhaps even in a joking manner.
Based on that, the wrestlers seem to have concluded that Jordan “must have known” about the doctor’s predation. However, if none of these wrestlers actually reported abuse to Jordan, that gives the congressman a solid defense since the initial accusation was that he “turned a blind eye.”
Punishment Should Be Reserved for Wrongdoers
Obviously, his adversaries would love to see him resign. If the allegations continue to mount, perhaps he will. But if we’re going to punish those who supposedly knew about sexual abuse without any evidence, then we should be punishing hundreds of people for knowing the truth about Harvey Weinstein.
When the Weinstein story broke, many critics (myself included) pointed to prominent A-listers and Democrats who paled around with the disgraced film mogul for decades before he was exposed as the monster he is. Folks on the Right insisted that Matt Damon, Meryl Streep, and Hillary Clinton all must have known about him (Lena Dunham reportedly tried to warn the Clinton campaign to distance themselves from Weinstein, a mega Democratic donor).
Of course, all of them denied knowing anything. But if Jordan deserves a destroyed reputation for simply knowing about the misdeeds another committed, then such a standard should be applied to essentially half of Hollywood and virtually every top Democrat in office.
Dirt Is Dirt, But We Don’t Know It’s There Yet
Whether you believe Jordan or these wrestlers probably aligns with your political beliefs. If you’re a supporter of the congressman, you’re probably giving him the benefit of the doubt. If you oppose the Ohio Republican, then you may already be calling for his resignation.
We will see where this controversy takes us, but his supporters should recognize the possibility that the two following things can be true at the same time: this takedown could indeed be a political hit job and it could still be true. If the political opposition, whether it’s the mainstream media or the Democratic Party, obtained legitimate dirt on you, then it’s still legitimate dirt no matter who found it. There were certainly coordinated efforts behind the politically motivated downfalls of Bill O’Reilly and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, but the allegations against them were substantiated.
Whether the congressman will face a similar fate is unknown. Jordan has an uphill battle ahead of him. He essentially has to disprove something that took place roughly three decades ago. But until substantial evidence surfaces, he shouldn’t be forced to resign.