Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has dismissed as "ridiculous" a claim by a professional referee that he told the congressman directly that Dr. Richard Strauss had masturbated in front of him in a shower at Ohio State University.
Jordan addressed the allegation in an interview with his hometown newspaper Monday, just days after NBC News reported that the referee claimed in a lawsuit that the congressman, who was then an assistant wrestling coach, barely blinked when he described his encounter with the sexual predator.
“Yeah, that’s Strauss,” Jordan and the head wrestling coach replied dismissively, according to the lawsuit, which does not name Jordan as a defendant.
But Jordan, a powerful Republican congressman who coached at OSU from 1986 to 1994 and continues to insist he had zero knowledge of what Strauss was doing, took issue with that account.
“The idea I’m not going to defend our athletes when I think they’re being harmed is ridiculous,” Jordan told The Lima News. “This is just, this is someone making a false statement.”
Jordan’s spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment from NBC News.
Jordan, as part of his defense, also listed the various agencies he’s battled with over the years as part of his strident defense of President Donald Trump.
“I’ve stood up against the speaker of the House from our party in my own state,” Jordan said. “I’ve stood up against the IRS, stood up against the FBI, stood up against Adam Schiff, fought the Justice Department when the whole Trump-Russia thing — what they had done.”
Jordan was referring to Rep Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the impeachment investigation. Jordan has been tapped by the GOP leadership to grill witnesses when the hearings get underway Wednesday.
NBC News has reached out for the comment to the referee, who is a respected member of Ohio's wrestling community and who has known Jordan for decades.
Identified in the court papers as John Doe 42, his allegation about Jordan’s alleged indifference was part of the lawsuit filed last week by 43 survivors against Ohio State. It charged the university’s “ingrained culture of institutional indifference” enabled Strauss to sexually abuse well over 100 students and athletes from a half-dozen sports over two decades.
The referee is the second person to say he told Jordan directly about sexual misconduct by Strauss, who was found by independent investigators to have sexually abused 177 male students over two decades.
Other former Ohio State wrestlers have said Jordan had to have known about Strauss because he shared a locker room with them and took part in discussions about the doctor, who died in 2005.
Jordan has repeatedly denied knowing anything about what Strauss did to the wrestlers and has called allegations that he turned a blind eye to the abuse politically motivated.
Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said last week that the university "has led the effort to investigate and expose the misdeeds of Richard Strauss and the systemic failures to respond, and the university is committed to a fair resolution.
"The university is actively participating in good faith in the mediation process directed by the federal court," Johnson continued. "In addition, since February, Ohio State has been covering the cost of professionally certified counseling services and treatment for anyone affected, as well as reimbursing costs for counseling already received."