How the press helped Rep. Jim Jordan whitewash his role in Ohio State sex abuse scandal – By Eric Boehlert (Daily Kos) / May 20 2019
The sprawling Ohio State University sex abuse scandal has been hanging over the head of Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan for the past year. An ultra-conservative member of the Freedom Caucus and a relentless defender of Donald Trump, Jordan has been accused of turning a blind eye to rampant sexual abuse at Ohio State when he worked there as a wrestling coach during the same time that Dr. Richard Strauss spent years abusing student athletes. Just recently, independent investigators hired by the university found that 177 male students were victims of sexual abuse by Strauss, a team doctor from the late 1970s to the 1990s. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.
When the damning final report was released on Friday, Jordan rushed to tell the Washington press that he had been exonerated. And journalists bought it, rewarding Jordan with headlines that treated his spin as the news:
-“Rep. Jordan: Report confirms denials of knowledge of sexual abuse at Ohio State” (Washington Post)
-“Jim Jordan claims vindication after Ohio State sex abuse report released” (Politico)
-“Former coach is quick to claim victory” (New York Times, print edition)
-“Jim Jordan says Ohio State report shows he didn’t know about sexual abuse” (Washington Examiner)
The headlines all make the same point: Jordan says the OSU report clears his name. But that’s simply not true. Many of the very news articles that were published under headlines stressing Jordan’s claim of vindication included portions detailing how the OSU investigation did not clear Jordan from involvement in the scandal.
From the Times: “The 182-page report released on Friday said dozens of other coaches acknowledged that rumors of the doctor’s predatory behavior were rife.” And Politico: “The report also notes that athletes said they openly discussed Strauss’ behavior in front of the coaching staff, and 22 coaches “confirmed to the Investigative Team they were aware of rumors and/or complaints about Strauss, dating back to the late 1970s and extending into the mid-1990s.” So why were Jordan’s claims of vindication trumpeted as the news? Why was that false claim featured in misleading headlines? Jordan seemed to simply rip a page from the Trump playbook: brazenly lie, and hope the news media repeats your lie. And it worked.
Note that for the last year there’s been lots of good, aggressive coverage of the OSU molestation scandal, particularly by the local Ohio media, as well as CNN and NBC. But when it became a political story last week via Jordan and the Beltway press covered it, the coverage immediately became timid as reporters acquiesced to the Republican’s hollow spin. “I think the report speaks for itself,” Jordan told reporters on Capitol Hill late last week, following the report’s release. “It confirmed everything I have said all along.” Actually, what the jaw-dropping and graphic report “confirmed” was that Strauss would often shower with athletes multiple times a day, as well as ejaculate them during examinations.
Here’s what the report determined regarding coaches from the time period, such as Jordan: “We did not identify any other contemporaneous documentary evidence indicating that members of the O.S.U. coaching staff, including head coaches or assistant coaches, received or were aware of the complaints regarding Strauss’ sexual misconduct.” Obviously the key phrase there is “contemporaneous documentary evidence,” meaning there was no paper trail. But it turns out Strauss’ abuse was so widespread that lots of people didn’t even think about creating “contemporaneous documentary evidence.” “From my experience, it was so publicly acknowledged within that community that I felt like it was open, public, acceptable behavior,” a former Ohio State wrestler, Mike Glane, told the Times. “I didn’t even think about reporting it.”
And CNN noted in its report, “More than 50 individuals who were members of the OSU Athletics Department staff during Strauss’ employment corroborated former student accounts that Strauss’ examination methods were like “an open secret” and that students complained about his loitering around the showers and locker rooms.”
There was also this from the report: “The Investigation Team received allegations from numerous student-athletes indicating that they talked about Strauss’s inappropriate genital exams and complained about Strauss’s locker-room voyeurism directly to — or in front of — O.S.U. coaching staff.”
Meanwhile, the report does nothing to undercut the claims of nine separate OSU wrestlers who had previously come forward and claimed Jordan knew about the Strauss abuse and did nothing. “There’s no way unless [Jordan’s] got dementia or something that he’s got no recollection of what was going on at Ohio State,” former OSU wrestler Mark Coleman has said about the rampant abuse under Strauss. “I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” Mike DiSabato, a former wrestler who alleges he was abused, previously told NBC. “But at the end of the day, [Jordan] is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.” And from former OSU wrestler Dunyasha Yetts: “For God’s sake, Strauss’s locker was right next to Jordan’s and Jordan even said he’d kill him if he tried anything with him.”
Indeed, a key finding of the report was that seemingly everyone within OSU athletics knew about the abusive doctor, and nobody did anything. But Jordan’s claim is that he lived in some kind of Columbus, Ohio, information silo and for years had absolutely no idea what was going on. That’s clearly not believable, and it’s astonishing that the press chose to play along with Jordan’s cover story, treating his flimsy denial as news.