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Jim Jordan backers set up website to counter claims he didn't protect wrestlers from sex abuse

By Sabrina Eaton • Jul 11, 2018 at 11:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Backers of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan have gone online to defend their man from claims that he failed to protect wrestlers from sexual abuse by a team doctor decades ago, when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University.

On Tuesday, a public relations firm that handles conservative clients sent a press release to reporters to publicize the www.standwithjimjordan.com website, which contains statements from 15 former wrestlers praising Jordan and backing up his claims that he wasn't aware of sexual abuse by physician Richard Strauss.

Jordan has faced criticism including calls for a congressional ethics inquiry after several former wrestlers told NBC News that Jordan failed to act in response to their complaints that Strauss inappropriately fondled, groped and ogled them.

Since then, several more wrestlers have come forward to say that Jordan, who worked at Ohio State in the 1980s and 1990s, knew of abuse and did nothing about it. Others say Jordan did nothing wrong.

Ohio State University announced in April that it was investigating Strauss, whom it believes might have behaved inappropriately with athletes from 14 sports. Strauss retired from the university in 1998 and died in 2005

The House Freedom Caucus co-founder from Champaign County has denied knowing of wrongdoing, telling FoxNews: "Conversations in the locker room are a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse. No one ever reported any abuse to me."

On Monday, a Virginia-based public relations firm that handles Republican clients sent reporters a press release with statements from Ohio State wrestling coaches that defended Jordan. On Tuesday, the same firm sent an email to publicize the new website and the statements from the wrestlers who support Jordan.

"The allegations that Jim Jordan acted inappropriately are 100% false. Jim Jordan is an ethical, outstanding man," says a statement from Rob Archer, a wrestler from 1993 through 1998 who is currently an associate principal and wrestling coach in Huntington, West Virginia.

"I have known Jim Jordan since 1980," said a statement from another former wrestler, Jim Picolo. "We trained together throughout our high school years. I feel compelled to speak up concerning the allegations surrounding the Doctor Strauss situation. I wrestled at Ohio State from 1982 to 1987. During that time Dr. Strauss was our team Doctor. Most of us thought he was a little odd but during my 5 years I can say that I never saw Dr. Strauss do anything inappropriate."

The public relation firm — Shirley & Banister — did not respond to requests for comment on who hired it to produce the materials. Federal Election Commission records indicate its past clients have included the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, which is urging support for Jordan's bid for House Speaker. Another past client is the political action committee of the Club For Growth, which works closely with the Freedom Caucus.

The controversy is unlikely to derail Jordan's re-election bid in the heavily Republican 4th Congressional District, which includes portions of Huron County, including Norwalk, as well as southern Erie County and Sandusky County. Democrat Janet Garrett is challenging Jordan for the third time this November. In the 2014 and 2016 general elections, Jordan received about 68 percent of the votes.

However, the controversy could throw a monkey wrench into any plans the 54-year-old Jordan might have to run for Speaker of the House of Representatives when Wisconsin's Paul Ryan retires from the job.

Jordan, who was elected to the U.S. House in 2006, has a district office in Norwalk.

Several of Jordan's colleagues including another potential candidate for Speaker — Louisiana's Steve Scalise — have issued statements that support Jordan.

"I have always known Jim Jordan to be honest, and I'm confident he would stand up for his athletes, just like he's always stood up for what's right," said a statement from Scalise.

President Donald Trump also expressed support for Jordan last week, telling reporters: "I believe him. Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I've met since I've been in Washington. I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind. I believe Jim Jordan 100 percent. He's an outstanding man."

On Tuesday, Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman said he's looking forward to Ohio State completing its investigation into the abuse allegations against Strauss.

"I think the allegations have been categorically denied by Congressman Jordan," said Portman. "He is also cooperating fully with the investigation."

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