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Unshaken by Abuse Scandal, Conservatives Are Sticking With Jim Jordan

Unshaken by Abuse Scandal, Conservatives Are Sticking With Jim Jordan


WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders and a platoon of former wrestlers have come out in support of Representative Jim Jordan as he deflects allegations that he turned a blind eye to sexual abuse as a wrestling coach at Ohio State, an extraordinary show of solidarity that indicates just how much power the conservative stalwart still wields.

Those backers, in rebutting the allegations of eight former wrestlers, have hewed to a strategy that simultaneously defends Mr. Jordan’s integrity, undermines his accusers, discredits mainstream news reports and invokes a “deep state” conspiracy.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin emerged on Wednesday as the latest prominent House Republican to defend Mr. Jordan. The majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, and the majority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana — both strong candidates to replace the departing Mr. Ryan — also backed him this week.

Their statements of support have centered on the same message: The Mr. Jordan they know always stands up for what is right.

“Jim Jordan is a friend of mine,” Mr. Ryan said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “We haven’t always agreed with each other over the years. But I always have known Jim Jordan to be a man of honesty, and a man of integrity.”

Mr. Jordan, a founder of the House Freedom Caucus who is in his sixth term, had also been floated as a possible successor to Mr. Ryan.

Fifteen former Ohio State wrestlers and four former coaches have also come forward to support Mr. Jordan, providing statements that were sent to reporters by the conservative public relations firm Shirley & Banister Public Affairs.

It is unclear who is paying for the firm’s efforts — neither Mr. Jordan’s office nor the firm responded to questions about the relationship. But it appears that his office is assisting the firm’s lobbying on his behalf: Reached by phone, one of the wrestlers quoted in a news release said he had sent his statement of support directly to Mr. Jordan’s office.

Some of those messages of support cast doubt on whether Richard H. Strauss — the doctor at the heart of an Ohio State investigation involving 150 former athletes in 14 sports — had ever abused athletes. One wrestler denied the allegations entirely, saying that the accusers were “seeing dollar signs.” Others wrote that they had never witnessed or heard of Mr. Strauss acting inappropriately.

But the firm also sent along a statement from one wrestler who wrote that in the locker room, there were “definitely inappropriate things that in my opinion were pretty disgusting going on all around us,” and another who wrote that he had been abused by Mr. Strauss and never told anyone but his father.

Mr. Jordan, an assistant coach on the team in the late 1980s and early ’90s, has maintained that he never saw or heard of inappropriate conduct occurring in the team’s recreational facility, underscoring the shifting nature of some of the claims offered in his defense.

The congressman wavered Friday during his first interview addressing the allegations, on Fox News, first commenting that “conversations in a locker room are a lot different than someone coming up talking about abuse” but later denying that he had ever heard about inappropriate activity.

In the interview, Mr. Jordan also staked out what appears to have become a central part of his defense strategy, borrowed from another prominent Republican who has backed him, President Trump: attacking the news media, CNN in particular.

Mr. Jordan complained last week on Fox News that CNN had aired interviews with one of his most vocal accusers, Mike DiSabato, a former Ohio State wrestler, saying that the network had “rushed” to put someone on TV who has been involved in several lawsuits, including one against the university.

The congressman repeated his attacks on Wednesday, tweeting: “Now @CNN is contacting all 100+ of our former staff and interns asking for dirt on me. Getting desperate! How can you ever trust such #fakenews?”

Supporters have sought to leverage the conservative news media in Mr. Jordan’s defense. The website standwithjimjordan.com has also emerged in recent days, serving as a hub of support. The site features articles from conservative news outlets with headlines like “Media Minimize Anti-Trump Dossier Role of Law Firm in Jim Jordan Wrestling Team Scandal.”

It also shares a report saying that Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote on Facebook that Mr. Jordan “is under attack, with false accusations, because he threatens the elite.”

In the past few days, Mr. Jordan has evoked his own reputation as a Trump ally and enemy of the so-called deep state — liberal bureaucrats embedded in the government — reminding his base of where his loyalty lies.

“I stood up to the speaker of the House from my home state, to the I.R.S. and to the F.B.I.,” Mr. Jordan told reporters on Wednesday. “To think that I would not stand up for my athletes is ridiculous.”

Mr. DiSabato said last week that he hoped the congressman would eventually start sending a different message to his supporters.

“Frankly, he needs to educate himself and his base that this is a serious issue, not just at O.S.U. but at universities all across the nation,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue; this is a parent issue.”





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