President Donald Trump announced Monday that he was awarding the presidential medal of freedom to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a pugnacious Republican ally in Congress who continues to back the president even after the deadly rampage last week by a pro-Trump mob through the Capitol.
Jordan received the nation’s highest civilian award from a lame-duck and increasingly isolated president who has just nine days left in office and who faces the humiliation of a possible second impeachment before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
A sharp-elbowed Trump defender, Jordan helped lead the GOP attack on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference. His harsh interrogations of witnesses — plus his refusal to wear a jacket while doing so — made him both a national figure and lightning rod for critics.
In announcing the award, the White House praised Jordan for, among other things, his work to "unmask the Russia hoax and take on Deep State corruption" and for his efforts to "confront the impeachment witch hunt."
In the wake of last week's invasion of the Capitol, Jordan has joined the bipartisan chorus condemning the violence.
But just hours after the building was ransacked, Jordan was also one of the 147 Republican representatives and senators who took part in the last-ditch effort to derail Biden’s legitimate victory by raising objections to the Electoral College results and echoing Trump’s baseless claims of a rigged election.
Jordan, a founding member of the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus who has sometimes rankled members of his own party, is not the first Trump political ally to get the award from the president.
Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican who has also staunchly defended Trump, got a medal last week. And before that, the right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh was a recipient.
A day after the assault on the Capitol, Trump gave the medal to three pro golfers — Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and, posthumously, Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Trump was supposed to give the medal to longtime New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick later this week, but the coach declined citing "the tragic events of last week."
In Ohio, the editorial board of The Dayton Daily News turned thumbs-down on Jordan getting the award, calling him one of the instigators of the deadly mob violence in Washington.
Jordan was one of several GOP congressmen who “willfully created an alternate reality by spreading lies and conspiracy theories,” the board wrote.
“Jim Jordan is an accomplice to the worst president in the history of our country, and to the violent insurrection that occurred this past week,” Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board member Victor Ruiz said recently at a roundtable discussion. “He has done a disservice to our country and his name should not be mentioned with the likes of Thurgood Marshall, Cesar Chavez and Maya Angelou.”
“I can hardly think of anyone less deserving of the Medal of Freedom than Jim Jordan, one of the seditious lawmakers who blocked a peaceful transition of power,” added fellow board member Lisa Garvin.
But conservative Plain Dealer columnist Ted Diadiun called Jordan a “stand-up guy and a patriot who says what he thinks and lives by his word.”
“Any award anyone sees fit to bestow on him is deserved, and is fine by me,” said Diadiun, who has also called for Trump’s impeachment for inciting the riot.
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The awarding of the medal to Jordan was also harshly criticized by some former Ohio State University wrestlers who have accused him of doing nothing to protect them from a team doctor who sexually abused them when Jordan was an assistant coach from 1986 to 1994.
“If turning your back on hundreds of athletes who were sexually abused on your watch and enabling a sitting President to incite a domestic terrorist insurrection are qualities of a candidate to receive the highest civilian award in the land, then Jim Jordan should get two medals of freedom,” whistleblowing former OSU wrestler Mike DiSabato told NBC News.
Jordan, a former champion college wrestler, has steadfastly denied any knowledge of what the team doctor, Richard Strauss, was doing to the wrestlers, including hearing any "locker room talk."