McCarthy defends Jordan amid Ohio State abuse scandal

Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is defending embattled Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) from allegations that he failed to stop a team doctor from sexually abusing Ohio State University (OSU) athletes when Jordan was a wrestling coach there decades ago.

McCarthy, the No. 2 House Republican, is the highest-ranking lawmaker to publicly stand by Jordan. His support comes a day after Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) issued a statement similarly backing the conservative lawmaker.


“Jim and I came into Congress together 12 years ago and I have always found him to be a good and honest man. I believe Jim when he says if faced with charges of abuse, he absolutely would have acted,” McCarthy said in a statement Tuesday.

“Everyone should be afforded due process in this very serious matter and I am glad there is an investigation underway of the despicable behavior by the Ohio State University doctor.”

McCarthy’s statement of support mirrors that of Scalise, who said he was “confident” that Jordan “would stand up for his athletes, just like he’s always stood up for what’s right.”

The remarks from McCarthy and Scalise on behalf of Jordan are significant considering the political dynamic among the three men.

While Jordan had been flirting with a bid for Speaker, McCarthy — the heir apparent to retiring Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — would need backing from Jordan and his 30-member ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus to secure the top leadership post.

Scalise, currently the No. 3 House Republican, would also need support from Jordan’s conservative bloc should he pursue a leadership bid in lieu of McCarthy.

Dozens of former Ohio State athletes have accused Dr. Richard Strauss of sexually abusing and assaulting them in the 1980s and ’90s.

Of those athletes, roughly a half dozen former OSU wrestlers have gone on the record to say that Jordan knew about the alleged abuse by Strauss but did nothing to stop it while he was an assistant wrestling coach at the college from 1987 to 1995.

Jordan, now 54, has denied knowing about any abuse of his wrestlers but has said there was unspecified “locker-room talk” about the doctor, who killed himself in 2005.

McCarthy and Scalise’s statements follow similar comments by at least eight other GOP lawmakers who are standing by Jordan, lawmakers who formerly chaired both the conservative Republican Study Committee and far-right Freedom Caucus.

Supporters include Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

Six former OSU wrestling coaches on Monday issued statements defending Jordan. And on Tuesday, the public relations (PR) firm Jordan hired to help fight back against the allegations compiled a list of 14 former OSU wrestlers who have gone on the record defending their former coach. 

The PR firm, Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, also launched a website Tuesday defending Jordan:

Jordan returned to Washington on Tuesday after the weeklong July Fourth recess, but spent most of the day hunkered down in his office as a few TV camera crews waited in the Rayburn Building hallway for him to emerge.

But he tweeted a short message: “Thank you to the former wrestlers who came out to support me today.”

Tags Freedom Caucus Jim Jordan Kevin McCarthy Mark Meadows Matt Gaetz Ohio State University wrestling Paul Ryan Republican Study Committee Scott Perry Sexual misconduct Steve Scalise

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