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Paul Ryan defends Jim Jordan amid allegations

House Speaker Paul Ryan called embattled Rep. Jim Jordan a man of honesty and integrity, amid allegations the Ohio lawmaker turned a blind eye toward alleged abuse while he was an assistant wrestling coach two decades ago.

Posted: Jul 12, 2018 6:41 AM
Updated: Jul 12, 2018 6:57 AM

Former Ohio State University wrestling coach Russ Hellickson on Wednesday staunchly defended Rep. Jim Jordan, his former assistant coach, who critics say ignored alleged sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, the team doctor who killed himself in 2005.

"People are hurt. But based on the story that's coming out about Doc Strauss, they have every right to be. How it's impacting their relationship with Jim Jordan is personal and emotional, and I can understand it in a way," he said in a phone interview with CNN, adding that he's "disheartened" at how the controversy is playing out in national media.

"Athletes who I cherished and a coach who I respect to the highest possible level are being torn apart by semantics. Jim Jordan gave his heart and soul to the athletes ... this is being driven by hysteria and politics," the former coach said.

Hellickson, who arrived at Ohio State in 1986, said he talked to the doctor -- whose alleged actions are the subject of a university investigation involving 14 teams -- about physical contact with the wrestlers. He described the interaction as a discussion, and denied recent media reports labeling it as a confrontation.

Hellickson said he told Strauss that his wrestlers were uncomfortable showering with the doctor. When Strauss pointed out that Hellickson also showered with the athletes, Hellickson told him, "not for an hour, doc" and to "speed it up."

Despite his own concerns about Strauss, Hellickson maintained Jordan may not have known about the alleged abuse that several former wrestlers described to CNN.

"We never talked about it, I never brought it up. Maybe Jim never saw it," he said.

Hellickson said he recently met with Perkins Coie, the investigative law firm appointed by the Ohio Attorney General's Office. "They got everything as graphically as I could tell them," he said.

Jordan, now a Republican congressman from Ohio, has denied any knowledge of inappropriate behavior during his time as an assistant wrestling coach between 1987 and 1995.

Hellickson said he recently spoke to another person from the same period about this situation.

"So I don't know what Jimmy -- maybe the guy is so focused. We never talked about it, I never brought it up," the former coach said. I never sat in a coaches meeting and said 'what are we going to do about Larkins Hall' (the physical education building where the wrestlers practiced and showered).

"Maybe Jim never saw it. Another assistant can't recall a situation, so it's everybody's perception," Hellickson said. "I sure dealt with it every day but I can't get into their minds. I can't speak for someone else. In Jimmy's mind, maybe he didn't see it. He was the most disciplined man I've ever known."

Former OSU wrestler Mike DiSabato said he was groped by Strauss dozens of times and that Jordan knew about the allegations of sexual abuse by the doctor.

"Again, I don't -- I don't think Jim and/or a lot of folks, coaches, administrators, really understood that, you know, touching a man's genitals without the need to do so is the definition -- is a definition of sexual abuse and sexual assault. Again, in the mid-'80s, that -- that term wasn't necessarily used," DiSabato told CNN. "However, to now say -- to now know that the word does apply to what was happening to us at the time is just -- is -- is -- is just -- it's surprising to me given the fact that Jim has -- this isn't the Jim Jordan I know."

DiSabato sent a letter to Ohio State last month requesting a meeting with university representatives to discuss a negotiated settlement with alleged victims. In the letter, DiSabato said he and others are looking for closure.

The Ohio State University confirmed it received the letter June 26 and said it has no further comment.

Jordan, who is in the midst of a re-election campaign, is not mentioned in the letter.

Hellickson said he struggles to understand public frustration with Jordan's recent denials.

"Considering the love and admiration and respect they had for him at the time, no. If these are the guys who feel they've been violated, then maybe I understand," Hellickson added.

"This thing is agonizing because I care about all these guys."

Hellickson coached at Ohio State from the 1987 season to 2006.

Two former wrestlers told CNN they don't think Jordan knew about Strauss and they also defended the former coach's character.

"Knowing that that happened, I just don't see him not doing anything if he knew," said George Pardos, an OSU wrestler from 1988 to 1993.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 727764

Reported Deaths: 13397
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion995211738
Lake53461965
Allen40457675
St. Joseph35506550
Hamilton35489408
Elkhart28433441
Tippecanoe22359218
Vanderburgh22284396
Porter18668307
Johnson17905377
Hendricks17180315
Clark12930191
Madison12592339
Vigo12431246
Monroe11858170
LaPorte11821210
Delaware10648185
Howard9865216
Kosciusko9378117
Hancock8251140
Bartholomew8052155
Warrick7771155
Floyd7649177
Grant7027174
Wayne7026199
Boone6679101
Morgan6555139
Dubois6150117
Marshall6005111
Dearborn579277
Cass5788105
Henry5688103
Noble558883
Jackson500872
Shelby490296
Lawrence4505120
Harrison434772
Gibson434692
Clinton427053
DeKalb426484
Montgomery423588
Whitley394739
Huntington389080
Steuben383857
Miami380666
Knox371890
Jasper363847
Putnam358860
Wabash353379
Adams340654
Ripley339170
Jefferson328881
White313254
Daviess295899
Wells291081
Decatur284292
Fayette279262
Greene277385
Posey271033
Scott265453
LaGrange265370
Clay259146
Washington240032
Randolph239781
Spencer232031
Jennings229549
Starke215453
Fountain212046
Sullivan211142
Owen198156
Fulton194740
Jay192530
Carroll188320
Orange182654
Perry182637
Rush172925
Vermillion168543
Franklin167735
Tipton162445
Parke145916
Blackford134632
Pike133234
Pulaski116445
Newton107234
Brown101641
Crawford99314
Benton98414
Martin88315
Warren81715
Switzerland7848
Union70810
Ohio56411
Unassigned0414

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1081518

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1256551400
Cuyahoga1117782115
Hamilton798901205
Montgomery513291014
Summit47080945
Lucas42049788
Butler38301584
Stark32242906
Lorain24958481
Warren24262298
Mahoning21511588
Lake20618369
Clermont19747238
Delaware18503133
Licking16410212
Fairfield16160199
Trumbull16019468
Medina15247264
Greene15043244
Clark13970299
Wood13065189
Portage12825203
Allen11626232
Richland11323199
Miami10661217
Muskingum8799133
Wayne8784211
Columbiana8766229
Pickaway8551121
Marion8514135
Tuscarawas8470244
Erie7871154
Hancock6906127
Ross6842155
Ashtabula6792170
Geauga6677148
Scioto6405101
Belmont5873167
Union570348
Lawrence5546102
Jefferson5521151
Huron5427119
Darke5347123
Sandusky5337120
Seneca5275121
Athens518858
Washington5153109
Auglaize489584
Mercer480385
Shelby468893
Knox4483110
Madison435561
Putnam4278100
Fulton421669
Ashland421489
Defiance419297
Crawford3970107
Brown393857
Logan381576
Preble379398
Clinton371263
Ottawa366679
Highland354662
Williams338575
Champaign331458
Guernsey315653
Jackson312151
Perry294850
Morrow284639
Fayette281550
Hardin270664
Henry268466
Coshocton264557
Holmes2593101
Van Wert243363
Adams237752
Pike237534
Gallia235349
Wyandot230855
Hocking215262
Carroll191247
Paulding172540
Meigs144740
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108323
Harrison107637
Vinton82815
Unassigned02
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