Embattled conservative Rep. Jim Jordan is stepping up his efforts to fight accusations that he ignored sexual abuse decades ago, allegations that threaten to tarnish his reputation and undermine his standing in Congress.
The Ohio Republican’s allies — from lawmakers on Capitol Hill to former wrestlers at Ohio State University — have released statements of support or gone on TV defending Jordan’s character. He has also hired a conservative-leaning public relations firm to help him deal with the media furor, Shirley & Banister Public Affairs.
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The group launched a new website Monday: StandWithJimJordan.com.
“We reached out to Jim as soon as we saw the story,” said Diana Banister, who is leading Shirley & Banister’s work for Jordan. “We reached out to the congressman because he’s a friend. He has a situation on his hands, and we wanted to be of help, of counsel, whatever we could do for him.”
The pushback comes after several former Ohio State wrestlers accused Jordan of turning a blind eye to complaints about the athletic department’s doctor, who’s been accused of groping and ogling members of the team. Jordan was an assistant coach in the late 1980s and early 1990s during the time the alleged abuse occurred.
Jordan has said that he had no knowledge of any abuse — and would have done something had he known.
“I never saw, never heard of, was never told about any type of abuse,” Jordan told Fox News‘ Bret Baier on Friday. “If I had been, I would have dealt with it.”
It is unclear what effect the accusations will have on Jordan. Many Republican lawmakers and aides believe he will weather the storm, albeit bruised by several weeks of bad headlines. No Republicans have called for his resignation, and most of his colleagues who have spoken out have defended him.
“I 100 percent support Jim Jordan. He is a man of integrity and honor, and always fights for the underdog,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told reporters Tuesday night. “He was an assistant coach … one of many coaches. And to suggest this was some how Jim Jordan’s fault? That’s just not accurate.”
Meadows was one of more than half-dozen members of Freedom Caucus who come to Jordan’s defense this week. Two GOP leaders, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), have also both backed him.
“I don’t know happened 20 years ago at Ohio State, but the only person I know in this whole thing is Jim, and Jim to me has been an honest person — all the time,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “I think if he saw something, he would say something.”
The more pertinent question, many on Capitol Hill think, is whether Jordan loses any influence. He has floated his name for speaker, though people close to Jordan say he’s only done that to solicit concessions from the next speaker that would empower conservatives.
Jordan does, however, want a committee gavel some day and has long had his eye on the House Oversight and Government Reform panel.
Jordan’s allies are trying to ensure the accusations don’t affect his status.
Shirley & Bannister, which has represented the NRA and Tea Party Patriots, began reaching out to reporters last week to inform them about past conflicts surrounding the first two wrestlers who accused Jordan of knowing about the abuse. Jordan’s reelection campaign eventually formally hired the group to help the Ohioan deal with the fallout.
Banister would not disclose details of their contract with Jordan’s campaign, including how much the firm is being paid or how long the contract lasts. That information will eventually become public when the reelection campaign files its disclosure reports.
One of the first things that Shirley & Banister did was create the website standwithjimjordan.com. The site on Tuesday included statements from 14 former Ohio State wrestlers who back Jordan.
“The allegations that Jim Jordan acted inappropriately are 100% false,” said Rob Archer, who wrestled for Jordan in the 1990s. “Jim Jordan is an ethical, outstanding man.”
Added Cullen Waugh, who also wrestled at Ohio State in the mid-1990s: “I feel that Jim is a very honest and ethical person and always acted in the best interest of our teammates. I feel that trying to make this political in any way devalues even more the people who were personally affected by this.”
The group also sent around positive statements by former coaches about Jordan.
“A lot of people want to see this information posted somewhere, they want to link to it,” Banister said. “So we thought let’s just compile all this and put it on one website to show all the people who support him.”