The New York Times ran a profile Sunday on Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and it’s a real puff piece. The article portrays Jordan as a fighter, saying, “he has made a name for himself with bare-knuckled partisan tactics and a penchant for picking fights with his adversaries.” The story does not detail exactly how “partisan” these “tactics'' are, but that is just one problem with it.
There are five former wrestlers from Ohio State University, where Jordan was once an assistant coach—and where this tortured joke of a metaphor that he’s a “fighter” comes from—who once said he was aware that a team doctor abused 177 athletes over two decades. Will the Times connect “bare-knuckled” partisan hack Jordan with the full breadth of the accusations against him?
Don’t worry, the paper of record makes sure to just barely scrape the surface of the accusations against “Gym” Jordan, even while giving the impression that those allegations have been somewhat settled.
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After blowing a few paragraphs of smoke into readers’ faces, the story says:
When a sexual abuse scandal at Ohio State University threatened to derail his political career, Mr. Jordan punched back in characteristic fashion, details of which have not been previously reported, calling a wrestler’s aging parents and asking them to persuade their son to back off the charge that Mr. Jordan knew about the abuse and did nothing, according to interviews conducted for this article.
The profile then moves on to detail Jordan’s rise to power within the Freedom Caucus, his early allegiance to Donald Trump, and his current position as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. After a brief bit of lip service to how utterly ineffective Jordan has been for over a decade in both the Ohio Statehouse and the House of Representatives, the Times quickly finds out how Jordan feels about himself. (Turns out, Jordan thinks he’s doing a great job.)
Remember the wrestling thing? The story doesn’t tackle that yet. After describing the political theater involved in Jordan’s taxpayer money-wasting committee hearings, the Times speaks with a couple of Republican Big Lie luminaries who weigh in on Jordan as "universally respected,” and who claim he helps build "confidence." Why they feel that way remains a mystery!
Any more about that wrestling scandal yet? Nope. The Times seems considerably more interested in the idea that other Republicans are willing to say that Jordan’s committee hearings aren’t actually a garbage fire at all—even though they are a wasteful garbage fire that have yielded nothing in the way of revelations or progress.
Finally, we get to wrestling! But wait: 24 or so paragraphs after first telling us there was a wrestling scandal, the Times instead delves into how Jim Jordan used to be a wrestler at the University of Wisconsin. And guess what?
He practices for all his public hearings, going over talking points again and again, as he used to drill wrestling moves, so he can deploy them quickly and to maximum effect.
Barf. We get a few quotes from Jordan about how he’s super into Donald Trump and how the Republican Party is now more like Trump and Jordan. (Take the internet time machine back to about 2016 and you can read just how Daily Kos first broke that news to you.) After talking about all of the fundraising money and his very symbiotic relationship with Trump for a few more paragraphs, the article finally gets to these pesky wrestlers and their 2018 accusations that Jordan knew Dr. Richard Strauss, the former Ohio State University medical doctor who treated athletes while Jordan was an assistant coach, was molesting and being sexually inappropriate with athletes.
What is truly vacuous about this reporting and what makes the entire piece such a puff pastry is that the Times seems to have an “exclusive” interview that tells us nothing new. The writer creates an illusion that the Ohio State wrestling scandal is basically settled, because there is no deeper dive into the implications revealed by this exclusive interview.
In 2018, after Jordan denied any knowledge of wrongdoing in the wrestling program, The Wall Street Journal quoted former Ohio State wrestler Michael Coleman as saying, “There’s no way unless he’s got dementia or something that he’s got no recollection of what was going on at Ohio State. I have nothing but respect for this man, I love this man, but he knew as far as I’m concerned.” About one month later Coleman clarified his statement to news outlets, saying that he didn’t have personal knowledge of Jordan ignoring the wrestlers’ pleas.
Here is where the profile, almost 28 paragraphs in, almost dives into how serious a liar and how much of a dirtbag a U.S. representative can be. Coleman reiterates that both the above statements are still true, adding:
In the interview, Mr. Coleman said Dr. Strauss routinely took 45-minute showers to ogle the athletes, including Mr. Jordan.
“Jim got stared at; I got stared at. Unless he has Alzheimer’s, Jim Jordan knew,” Mr. Coleman said. “But I have no knowledge of anyone being abused reporting it to Jim Jordan, and I have no problem with Jim Jordan. He was a fantastic coach. He’s a good man — a good, churchgoing family man.”
And that is that. Nothing about the other wrestlers, who spoke pretty openly about Jordan’s work behind the scenes to get them to change their stories and make statements that contradicted the accusations. It doesn’t cover the 2020 CNN story quoting six former wrestlers who said Jordan lied when he said he was ignorant of Dr. Strauss’ actions. The Times article forgets to mention that Jordan’s “bare-knuckle” fighting style amounted to him saying this about the multiple witnesses accusing him of lying:
“The idea that I wouldn’t stand up for these athletes is ridiculous,” Jordan said. “I feel sorry for these guys, the fact that they aren’t telling the truth. I mean these are guys I trained with, these are guys I worked out with, I ran with, wrestled with, and the idea that now they are saying what they are, it’s just not true.”
The story links to a 2019 New York Times article about the sexual abuse case, where former Ohio State wrestler Dunyasha Yetts is quoted as wondering aloud about Jordan, “How can he be vindicated?”
With puff pieces like this. That’s how.
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