Oped: Ohio State's Jim Jordan a terrible leader

Matthew Fleischer
Tribune News Service

The heat on powerful Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) isn't dying down. Several more former Ohio State wrestlers accused him over the weekend of lying about his knowledge of sexual abuses allegedly committed by former team Dr. Richard Strauss while Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at the school.

Representative Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asks FBI Director Cristopher Wray a question during a United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on June 28, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Alex EdelmanCNP/Zuma Press/TNS)

Jordan has repeatedly dismissed the allegations against him, suggesting he knew nothing about the alleged abuse and that "the timing is suspect" in the wake of his high-profile confrontation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Yes, because the first thing on alleged sexual abuse survivors' minds as they fight for justice is how to make Jordan look bad after a showboating face-to-face with Rod Rosenstein, of all people. Decades of trauma saved up to score a political point on an issue totally unrelated to their case.

It sure sounds an awful lot like Jordan did nothing while a sexual predator preyed on his students — and is now gaslighting alleged victims of sexual abuse to cover his own moral and ethical failures.

Remember, the scandal here is much larger than a handful of former wrestlers who claim Jordan knew about Strauss and did nothing. Ohio State has identified purported victims across 14 different sports. Some estimates for Strauss' full number of alleged victims range in the thousands.

It's pretty clear that horrible acts of sexual abuse seem to have occurred under Jordan's nose at Ohio State. The only thing in question is if he knew about them.

With that in mind, let's take Jordan at his word that he was ignorant about the abuse as it was allegedly occurring at Ohio State.

Here's the scenario:

Jordan is a former Ohio State wrestling star who went on to coach wrestling at his alma mater. Naturally, his kids looked up to him. He was a hero.

The years went on, students came and went, and Jordan moved into politics. He developed power and influence. He was somebody. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before one of his former students reached out for help.

One did, and he needed it desperately. The former student says he was sexually assaulted by Strauss. He wasn't alone. Dozens of other students were coming forward with the same story of alleged abuse — at the hands of the same person. After years of silent suffering, Jordan's former wrestlers and others wanted justice, and they desperately needed Jordan's help to get it.

What would a decent person do in this scenario?

A. Publicly express outrage and do everything he could to help his former student and other victims seek justice.

B. Use whatever leverage he has to quietly pressure his former school and law enforcement into taking the matter seriously.

C. Tell the former student "it's not my problem" and send him on his way.

Jim Jordan was confronted with this very scenario. He chose C.

And that is the most generous way to describe his actions. The reality is worse.

When asked by his former student for help, not only did Jordan say, "No thanks," but he called the police on said man when his cries for help became politically inconvenient.

Jordan could have been an ally to his former students. Even if he's ignorant about the alleged abuse, he could spoken out in support of alleged victims. He could still have tried to help. Instead, he abandoned his moral and ethical responsibility to protect his career.

Jim Jordan may or not be complicit in the horrific abuse at Ohio State, but even if you believe Jordan — and, to be clear, I don't — there's no scenario in this mess where he's a good person.