House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday became the most high-profile Republican in Congress to support embattled Rep. Jim Jordan, amid allegations the Ohio lawmaker turned a blind eye two decades ago toward alleged abuse while he was an assistant coach.
“Jim Jordan is a friend of mine,” Ryan said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “We haven’t always agreed with each other over the years. But I always have known Jim Jordan to be a man of honesty, and a man of integrity.”
Ryan’s public confidence in Jordan signals the Republican conference is rallying behind the Ohio Republican, who has faced an onslaught of criticism following the accusations.
With Republican leaders defending Jordan, as well as the conservative Freedom Caucus, Jordan’s allies on and off the Hill have rallied behind him and mounted an extensive and coordinated effort to fight back the negative accusations.
An outside firm was hired earlier this year to conduct an independent investigation at Ohio State University. Jordan, who has repeatedly denied having any direct knowledge of sexual abuse, has not sat down with those investigators yet, but said Tuesday it was possible he might sit down with them this week.
“I am glad Jim is supporting that review,” Ryan said.
Ryan shot down the idea that the House Ethics Committee would investigate Jordan, as has been floated, saying that the Ethics Committee typically investigates things that have happened while members are in Congress, not things that happened decades ago and before they were.
Ryan spoke to Jordan on the phone over this weekend about this and to check in with him after the death of his nephew who was killed in a car accident last week.
Jordan himself defended his position earlier Wednesday, saying before a GOP conference meeting in Washington that “to think I would not stand up for my athletes is ridiculous.”
“I’m telling the truth. Look, I stood up to the speaker of the house in my home state,” Jordan told reporters Wednesday morning. “I stood up to the IRS. To think I would not stand up for my athletes is ridiculous. Thank you.”
After that meeting, Jordan told reporters he has received great support from his colleagues.
“(I have conservative House) Freedom Caucus unanimous support and great support from the leadership and the President,” he said. “I think the reason they are all supporting me is because they know it’s the truth.”
As he walked away, Jordan was asked if he had any plans to meet with investigators at OSU.
Jordan answered “Yeah, we’re going to.”
It’s been a week since a group of former wrestlers at Ohio State University accused Jordan of knowing about the sexual abuse but doing nothing about it while he was an assistant wrestling coach. Other former wrestlers and coaches have come out in support of Jordan and disputed accusations that he turned a blind eye.
Other Republican support
On Tuesday night, the conservative Freedom Caucus, which Jordan co-founded, voted to support the congressman in the wake of the accusations. The group’s backing signals a solid bloc of support for Jordan from his most ardent followers in the Republican conference.
Multiple lawmakers leaving the GOP conference meeting told CNN the scandal around Jordan was only addressed once during the behind-closed-doors conference meeting.
It was brought up by one member, Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama, who stood up and said that the conference should defend and rally around Jordan.
He said “we need to be supportive of our colleague,” according to a member in the room.
Rep. Chris Collins called the allegations “a lot of hearsay” rather than having any “concrete evidence” to the allegations.
And Rep. Peter King told reporters the allegations should be investigated but added that “to me these allegations could be made against anyone.”
“Until they are proven they are not real, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Jordan was present in the room but did not speak up during the meeting, according to members.
CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.