Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Credit: Congressional homepage of Jim Jordan
Republican representative Jim Jordan of Ohio speaks at a House committee meeting.

Commentary - What Jim Jordan did not know

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio lost three rounds of votes to become the new speaker of the House of Representatives before his colleagues dropped him from the ballot.

For more than 21 days, work in the House of Representatives was blocked by the absence of a Speaker of the House. 

The chaos began after several Republican hardliners, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, were successful on Oct. 3 in their attempt to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., was named interim speaker until a new speaker was chosen.

The expansive search for a new speaker turned up candidates from varying backgrounds like Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn. Republicans finally settled on Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, uniting on Oct. 25 to elect him, after Jordan, R-Ohio, failed to get the necessary numbers.

The Democrats nominated Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York for the position. Jeffries beat Jordan in all three votes, 212-200, 212-199 and 210-194. The GOP pulled support for Jordan given his dwindling support, leaving the Ohio representative, who refused to certify Joe Biden's win in the 2020 presidential election, to lick his wounds.

The Champaign County representative, whom former president Donald Trump endorsed for the speaker's position, is known as a fighter. The former Ohio State University wrestling coach aimed for the heights of American power. Now, he must grapple with failure.

What Jordan did not know

Despite his rise in Washington, D.C., Jordan remains dogged by a sex abuse scandal far from the center of American power, a scandal of which he denies any knowledge.

An independent report released in 2019 determined that former Ohio State University team doctor, Richard Strauss, sexually abused at least 177 men in at least 16 sports over an 18-year period from 1979 to 1997. Ohio State has since paid out $60 million in settlements to some 300 victims.

Jordan, a coach for the university's wrestling team from 1987-1995, was a close colleague of Dr. Strauss, who killed himself in 2005. More than 18 years later, Jordan still remains silent when pressed to explain his lack of awareness of the situation although he and Strauss shared a locker room at OSU with the athletes.

In 2018, several former wrestlers accused Jordan of turning a blind eye to the abuse that was happening right under his nose.

Rocky Ratliff, a former OSU student-athlete and now an attorney, is representing several other former OSU wrestlers in an ongoing lawsuit against the university.

"I think the wrestlers that I represent, not one of us, would back him for such a leadership position," Ratliff said of Jordan's bid for the speaker's gavel.

A spokesperson for Jordan said, "Chairman Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse, and if he had, he would have dealt with it."

Had Jordan been more vigilant, perhaps he would have seen what was happening and heard the anguished cries of the young men around him and acted to protect them from further harm.

Is this the kind of myopia and deafness the U.S. wanted in a man second in line for the presidency?