‘A cesspool of deviancy’: New claims of voyeurism test Jordan denials
New allegations in the Ohio State University sexual abuse scandal are threatening to intensify the political firestorm facing its onetime assistant wrestling coach, powerful GOP Rep. Jim Jordan.
A half-dozen ex-wrestlers told POLITICO they were regularly harassed in their training facility by sexually aggressive men who attended the university or worked there. The voyeurs would masturbate while watching the wrestlers shower or sit in the sauna, or engage in sexual acts in the areas where the athletes trained, the former wrestlers said.
Story Continued Below
Larkins Hall, the building that housed athletic teams, became such a well-known target that people who frequented it at the time have reminisced in anonymous postings online how easy it was to ogle naked members of the wrestling team.
The situation was so egregious that former wrestling head coach Russ Hellickson would at times have to physically drag the gawkers out of the building, several sources familiar with his actions at the time said. Hellickson also pleaded with the university multiple times to move their athletes to a private facility, the sources said. Jordan served as Hellickson’s No. 2, and the coach has been described as Jordan’s mentor.
The accusations could exacerbate Jordan’s troubles. He was the wrestling team’s assistant coach from 1986 to 1994 and has adamantly denied knowledge of any sexual abuse.
“I never knew about any type of abuse,” Jordan said in an interview this week. “If I did, I would have done something about it.”
Though none of the wrestlers and coaches interviewed blamed Jordan for the inappropriate behavior they experienced in Larkins Hall, they said he would have had to know about it. One former wrestler told POLITICO he saw Jordan yell at male voyeurs to get out of the sauna, though Jordan’s office refuted this account. Even three wrestlers who defended Jordan said it would have been impossible for him not to notice the pervasive toxic atmosphere surrounding the team.
“Coaching my athletes in Larkins Hall was one of the most difficult things I ever did,” said a former wrestling coach who worked with Jordan but asked not to be named. “It was a cesspool of deviancy. And that’s a whole ’nother story that no one has addressed.”
“Was there some deviant behavior? … Was there behavior when guys were coming into the sauna and showers, was there sexual misconduct? No one is denying that,” said ex-OSU wrestler George Pardos of Larkins Hall in an interview. He defended Jordan as “one of the most honest men I’ve ever known.”
Multiple former wrestlers have accused Jordan, a National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee, of being among the faculty members who turned a blind eye to inappropriate behavior by the late Richard Strauss, the university’s former athletic doctor. Strauss allegedly preyed on male students during physicals, groping them to the point of making them ejaculate, according to one nurse who witnessed it and recounted the story in a video produced by alleged victims and obtained by POLITICO.
Ohio State has launched an investigation into Strauss’ behavior. Strauss worked at the university from 1978 to 1998. He killed himself in 2005.
Jordan has become the face of the controversy because of his current high profile as a leader of the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus. But the Ohio State scandal, which first came to light in April, goes well beyond him. Jordan was fresh out of college, still in his early 20s, when he started training Ohio State wrestlers near his own age. Ex-teammates said he expressed interest in politics even back then.
But those two worlds never collided until now.
Now, Jordan is one of the most powerful members of the House and a potential candidate for speaker. He commands the loyalty of at least three dozen conservatives who regularly look to him for guidance on how to vote, often pulling GOP leaders to the right. He is close with President Donald Trump, who expressed his support for the Ohio Republican on Thursday night.
Jordan has also built a reputation on Capitol Hill as a truth seeker and champion of the underdog. But questions are mounting about his actions — or failure to act — two decades ago.
The controversy will continue next week when Congress returns from its Fourth of July recess, and he is pressed by reporters for more information. So far, Jordan’s colleagues have remained quiet, though he has called several Freedom Caucus members to reiterate his innocence, GOP sources said.
But Jordan’s denials have upset several of his former wrestlers, who want him to acknowledge what they felt as victims of sexual abuse.
Jordan’s office has emphasized that no one ever told Jordan that they were sexually assaulted or abused. Other wrestlers said Jordan is technically correct that no one used the words “sexual assault” or “sexual abuse” — such terms weren’t typically used in the 1990s, they said. Society has changed, they added: Often, victims suffered abuse privately and rarely spoke about it publicly.