Four former wrestlers from Ohio State University who accuse Rep. Jim Jordan of failing to act on allegations of sexual abuse when he was the team’s assistant coach said the congressman shouldn’t become the new House speaker.
Jordan has long denied accusations that he was aware of any abuse allegations aimed at OSU team doctor Richard Strauss while the Republican worked as a coach between 1986 and 1994. The allegations against Jordan first emerged in 2018, with six former wrestlers telling CNN in 2020 that Jordan knew of complaints from students about Strauss, but failed to take any action.
The allegations surrounding Jordan’s apparent knowledge of the widespread abuse have been brought up again in the wake of rep. Kevin McCarthy‘s historic removal from the role of House speaker in a 216-210 vote on October 3. Jordan, along with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, are the only two candidates to confirm their plans to compete for the position, with the Ohio congressman getting the backing of former president Donald Trump.
Speaking to NBC News, four of the former Ohio State University wrestlers who have accused Jordan of failing to protect them from Stauss in the 1980s and 1990s have said that Jordan is not a suitable candidate for the role of House Speaker, a position which is second in line for the presidency after the vice president.
In a statement to Newsweek, Jordan’s spokesperson Russell Dye told Newsweek: “Chairman Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse, and if he had, he would have dealt with it.”
“He doesn’t deserve to be House speaker,” said Dunyasha Yetts, one of the former OSU wrestlers. “He still has to answer for what happened to us.”
Mike Schyck, who is one of the hundreds of OSU students who say they were abused by Strauss, added: “Do you really want a guy in that job who chose not to stand up for his guys? Is that the kind of character trait you want for a House Speaker?”
In 2019, an independent report from OSU found that Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, had sexually abused “at least 177 male student-patients” between 1979 and 1998, mostly under the guise of performing medical examinations such as hernia checks.
In July 2022, the university announced it had reached settlement agreements of more than $60 million with 296 of Strauss’ alleged victims.
Schyck dismissed Jordan’s suggestions that he wasn’t aware of any abuse allegations against Strauss.
“His locker was just a few spots away from mine and mine was near Dr. Strauss’,” Schyck said. “And we were always talking about Dr. Strauss. There’s no way he didn’t know what was going on.”
Schyck added that he believes Jordan has “no choice but to stick to this story that he had no idea what Dr. Strauss was doing, even though it’s a lie,” while he is running for House speaker.
Rocky Ratliff, another one of Strauss’ alleged victims who is also a lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs suing OSU, said the accusations surrounding Strauss were an “open secret” at the university while Jordan was there.
“Everybody talked about Strauss,” Ratliff told NBC News. “Everybody knew if you went to him, the first thing he would do is take down your pants. Everybody knew he was taking unnecessary showers with the team. His locker was near Jimmy’s locker.”
Another former OSU wrestler, identified only as John Doe, said he can’t support Jordan for House speaker as the Republican has been “playing with words instead of supporting” the alleged victims.
“None of us used the words ‘sexual abuse’ when we talked about what Doc Strauss was doing to us, we just knew it was weird and Jimmy knew about it because we talked about it all the time in the locker room, at practices, everywhere,” he said.
Elsewhere, House Republicans are refusing to get drawn into the allegations.
“Hasn’t this already been dealt with?” Florida rep. Byron Donalds said on Tuesday, according to a Roll Call report. “What I’m going to do right now is find a speaker of the House. I’m not getting into stuff like that from years ago.”
South Carolina rep. Nancy Mace, one of the eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy, was criticized for saying she wasn’t aware of the allegations that have dogged Jordan for the past five years.
“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,” Mace added.
Update 10/12/23, 2:11 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from Jim Jordan’s spokesperson Russell Dye.