A college wrestling referee says he reported sexual misconduct involving a former doctor who’s been accused of sexually abusing nearly 300 men over a 17-year period to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a former assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State. The congressman was dismissive, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, and the doctor, Richard Strauss, continued to treat and abuse students at the school.
Ohio State says it’s aware of 1,429 instances of fondling and 47 instances of rape involving Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005. Thursday’s filing marks the 13th lawsuit against the school.
Jordan has found himself at the periphery of the controversy because some former wrestlers have said he was aware — or should have been aware — of Strauss’ misconduct. Jordan has denied any knowledge of the abuse, and did so again on Friday.
“Congressman Jordan never saw or heard of any kind of sexual abuse, and if he had he would’ve dealt with it,” Jordan spokesman Ian Fury. “Multiple investigations have confirmed this simple fact.”
The lawsuit comes as Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has taken a leading role in the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump as perhaps Trump’s most aggressive defender. Inside numerous closed door interviews conducted over the past six weeks, Jordan and a senior Oversight Committee aide reporting to him led GOP questioning.
On Friday, Jordan was named to the House Intelligence Committee, giving the stalwart Trump ally a key role in the president’s defense at public hearings on Trump’s potential impeachment. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement that the move was temporary.
Top House lawmakers of both parties have largely kept quiet about the Ohio State allegations, allowing investigations to play out. When the university issued a report in May finding that investigators could not make “conclusive determinations” about whether particular employees knew of Strauss’ conduct, Jordan claimed vindication.
“You guys know me,” he told reporters at the time. “If I thought one of our athletes was being harmed … I’d have done something.”
The latest lawsuit includes 43 men who said they were abused by Strauss. Many are identified as John Doe, including a longtime referee who recounted an incident in either 1994 or 1995, in which the school paid him to work an event at the school’s St. John Arena.
After refereeing the match, the complaint says the man entered the locker room to change and shower. Strauss also came in and both men were in an open shower room with several shower heads along each wall. They were the only two in there, but Strauss chose to shower next to the referee.
“Before he knew it, [the referee] realized that some part of Dr. Strauss’s body was touching him,” the lawsuit states. “[The referee] looked up and saw Dr. Strauss masturbating while staring right at [him].”
The lawsuit says the referee recoiled and said, “What the hell, doctor?”
He exited the shower and Strauss followed, according to the lawsuit, saying, “You have a nice penis and physique, there’s nothing wrong with the human body.”
The complaint states that the referee told Strauss his behavior was inappropriate and reported the incident to a pair of Ohio State coaches, including Jordan.
“They responded, ‘Yeah, that’s Strauss,’ ” the complaint states.
In May an independent investigation paid for by Ohio State identified at least 177 male students who said they were abused by Strauss from 1979 until 1996. Even before the report, many former wrestlers from the school had publicly said that Jordan should have been aware of the abuse, given his position on the coaching staff and widespread rumors about Strauss. Jordan was an assistant at the school from 1987-95. That May report said that many students had made complaints and many Ohio State employees were informed of Strauss’ actions, but it did not name Jordan.
The report, which was written by the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie, said that with one exception, investigators couldn’t make “conclusive determinations” about whether coaches were aware of complaints regarding Strauss’ alleged sexual misconduct.
Thursday’s lawsuit marks at the least the second time that someone who suing the school has said he reported Strauss’ misconduct to Jordan, who has not been named as a defendant in any of the lawsuits.
Former wrestler Dunyasha Yetts has told NBC News that he reported to Jordan and the team’s former head coach that Strauss attempted to pull down his pants when the wrestler sought treatment for a thumb injury. Yetts was part of a lawsuit filed against the school in June, though Jordan was not named in the complaint.
“It’s good that people are starting to come forward and say the truth, which is that Jordan and the other coaches knew what was going on and they blew it off,” Yetts told NBC News Thursday.