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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Political journalists have the unsavory penchant for not allowing facts — or, in some cases, a lack of facts — to get in the way of a good story. In the case of the manufactured scandal surrounding what U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan knew (if anything) about the alleged abuse of student athletes at Ohio State University 30 years ago, the mainstream media outlets have lost sight of two things glaringly absent from the narrative — credible witnesses and any kind of concrete evidence.

At issue is Mr. Jordan’s alleged failure to take action to stop the alleged sexual abuse of student wrestlers at the hands of Dr. Richard Strauss, the team’s doctor, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mr. Jordan, a two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion, served as assistant coach of the wrestling team.


Last week, NBC News reported that three former OSU wrestlers charged that Mr. Jordan knew of Dr. Strauss’ alleged abuse of them and others, but did nothing to stop it. By week’s end, the list of accusers had grown to seven.

Mr. Jordan denies knowing of the alleged abuse. Appearing Friday evening on FOX News “Special Report” with Bret Baier for an in-studio interview, Mr. Jordan said, “It’s false. I never saw, never heard of, never was told about any type of abuse. If I had been, I would’ve dealt with it. Our coaching staff — we would’ve dealt with it. These were our student athletes. A good coach puts the interest of his student athletes first. We would’ve dealt with it if we would’ve known about anything that happened.”

That’s a strong denial, without hesitation or equivocation.

So, how do we know who’s telling the truth about what happened 30 years ago?

We should begin precisely where the media has left holes. And that goes back to the lack of credible witnesses and the lack of concrete evidence.

First, the credibility issue. One of Mr. Jordan’s accusers, Dunyasha Yetts, says, “I remember I had a thumb injury and went into Strauss’ office and he started pulling down my wrestling shorts I’m like, what the f– are you doing? And I went out and told Russ [Hellickson, the head coach at the time] and Jim what happened.”

But Mr. Yetts has a credibility problem. He served 18 months in prison for fraud.

Then there’s Mike DiSabato, one of the three former student athletes making the initial charges against Mr. Jordan, who, according to NBC News, says “the recent conviction of former Olympics gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar prompted him and other Ohio State athletes to come forward about Strauss.”

Dr. Larry Nassar’s conviction of sexual crimes against student athletes led Michigan State University to settle for $500 million.

Like Mr. Yetts, Mr. DiSabato has a credibility problem. He helped establish a memorial fund in honor of a former teammate, a U.S. Marine who was killed in combat in Iraq. The Marine’s widow accused Mr. DiSabato of misrepresenting his fund-raising efforts, and finally had to issue a cease and desist order against Mr. DiSabato.

Second, there is the lack of concrete evidence. Anonymous claims, by the way, belong in this category.

A second wrestler told CNN he remembers telling Mr. Jordan about Dr. Strauss’ behavior. “I remember coming up and saying, ‘Strauss held my balls longer than normal.’ [Jordan] just snickered.”

But that wrestler chooses to hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

The other accusers use vague terms without specifics — “He is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on,” or “He must have known.” But “he must have known” is a far cry from “he knew.”

What about corroborating evidence? Does anyone claim to have provided Mr. Jordan with a written complaint? No.

On the one hand, we have two accusers with serious credibility deficiencies and a complete lack of evidence.

On the other hand, in addition to Mr. Jordan’s firm denial, there is the joint statement of six former Ohio State University wrestling coaches including former head coach Russ Hellickson. “What has been said about Jim Jordan is absolutely wrong. We all worked on the wrestling coaching staff during Jim’s tenure at The Ohio State University. None of us saw or heard of abuse of OSU wrestlers.” There are also numerous statements from other students supporting Jordan’s denial.

What would motivate these accusers to lie about Jim Jordan? I don’t know.

What I do know is Jim Jordan’s character. Mr. Jordan stands out in Washington for his strong moral convictions and his backbone of steel. He’s unafraid to take on a challenge when it’s the right thing to do.

I simply do not believe he would have failed to take action if he had been informed of sexual abuse against his student athletes.

Washington journalists love a good scandal. But they should stick to the fact-based scandals with evidence and solid witnesses. In this case, they have neither.

• Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.


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