A former Ohio State University wrestler accused Rep. Jim Jordan on Friday of lying about not knowing of sexual abuse allegations against a university doctor during his time as an assistant coach there 25 years ago.
Adam DiSabato told CNN Friday that he had reported the complaints about the late Dr. Richard Strauss, who was accused of assaulting student athletes during their medical examination, to Jordan and the team’s head coach during the time of the alleged abuse.
Jordan has denied knowing about the allegations of abuse when he was assistant coach for the university’s wrestling team from 1987 to 1995. When asked to respond to DiSabato’s comments on Friday, a spokesman for Jordan highlighted remarks the congressman made in an interview with Fox News in 2018, when Jordan asserted “what has been said about me is completely false.” The head coach, Russ Hellickson, told CNN on Friday in response to DiSabato’s claims, “That is a blatant lie.”
“I think it’s a boldface lie because Dunyasha Yetts went to (Jordan) and told him about an exam to his face. And it’s been documented. There are several people who went up to him. We all complained,” DiSabato told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day,” claiming that the allegations about Strauss “was open discussion in the locker room.” Yetts was a fellow wrestler who who has publicly alleged abuse at Strauss’ hands.
“We complained about it, but they never did anything about it,” he added.
DiSabato’s brother, Mike, said in 2018 that he was sexually abused by Strauss when he was a wrestler at OSU between 1987 and 1991 and claimed that Jordan, an Ohio Republican congressman since 2007 and a state legislator for more than a decade prior, had been aware of the alleged abuse.
Adam DiSabato told CNN Friday that Jordan and Hellickson essentially told him to be quiet about the allegations.
“Basically they both told me … not to say anything to anybody in that environment that we were put in and to be happy where we were at,” DiSabato said.
DiSabato told CNN that Jordan had called him “crying” in 2018 when allegations against Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005, emerged.
“He was begging me to go against my brother’s testimony, basically, and come out with a statement. So I just listened to him and expressed that I didn’t know what my brother – what his motives. I hadn’t talked to him or anything. But I said, ‘I can’t really give you an answer right now, I’m in the middle of something.’ And I said, ‘let me talk to my family’ and that was that. I kind of just brushed him off. You know? And that was the conversation,” DiSabato recalled.
DiSabato had testified about the phone call during an Ohio statehouse hearing Tuesday for legislation that would allow a victim to sue a university if a university doctor abused them.
A spokesman for Jordan said in a statement earlier this week that Adam DiSabato’s claim about the phone calls is “another lie.”
“Congressman Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse, and if he had he would have dealt with it,” Jordan’s communications director Ian Fury said in a statement to CNN. “Congressman Jordan would never ask anyone to do anything but tell the truth.”
A report released last year by Ohio State University and compiled by independent investigators detailed acts of sexual abuse believed to be carried out by Strauss against at least 177 students while he worked at the school between 1978 and 1998. The report found that university personnel were aware of complaints against Strauss, but failed to adequately investigate the allegations. The report, however, said it could not identify any evidence “indicating that members of the OSU coaching staff, including head coaches or assistant coaches, received or were aware of the complaints regarding Strauss sexual misconduct,” a finding that Jordan said vindicated him.
Mike DiSabato’s lawyer, Rocky Ratliff, told CNN that the number of plaintiffs suing Ohio State is over 350. Ohio State University officials are reporting over 1,500 separate cases where Strauss sexually abused students, according to Sauder Schelkopf, the law firm representing a number of the former students and student-athletes.
The allegations against Strauss came to light in 2018 after former university athletes came forward to claim the doctor had sexually abused them under the guise of a medical examination.
A spokesman for OSU said that for more than a year the university has led efforts to investigate Strauss’ alleged abuse and the universities “failure at the time to adequately respond to or prevent it.”
“We express our deep regret and apologies to all who experienced Strauss’ abuse, we are actively participating in good faith in the mediation process directed by the federal court and remain actively committed to a fair resolution, including a monetary resolution,” school spokesman Ben Johnson said in a statement to CNN.
Johnson said the university has been covering the cost of professionally certified counseling services and treatment for anyone affected, as well as reimbursing costs for preexisting counseling and treatment related to Strauss.
CNN’s Sonia Moghe, Dakin Andone, Laura Ly, Lauren del Valle and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.