A man­u­fac­tured scan­dal

Al­le­ga­tions against a con­gress­man are thin on facts

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Jenny Beth Martin

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 in­stu­dio 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

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.

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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