House Majority Whip Steve Scalise on Tuesday came out in support of Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, the first member of the House leadership team to do so since the congressman has been rocked by accusations that he turned a blind eye to alleged sexual abuse while an assistant coach at Ohio State University.
“I have always known Jim Jordan to be honest, and I’m confident he would stand up for his athletes, just like he’s always stood up for what’s right,” Scalise said in a statement to CNN, “I’m glad that Jim is committed to working with the investigators to see that the full truth comes out and justice is served.”
Scalise statement marks the first statement from a member of the Republican leadership team in support of Jordan. In a statement released through a spokesman last week when the allegations were first made against Jordan, Speaker Paul Ryan’s office only called the allegations “serious” and said that they should be investigated.
Later today, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows met with Jordan in his office for a little under an hour.
After the closed-doors meeting Meadows said he strongly supports Jordan.
“Well I mean I know Jim Jordan,” he said. “There’s 0% he wouldn’t defend a wrestler … I just know who he is as a person.”
Meadows says that “almost 100%” of Freedom Caucus members are in support of Jordan.
“Almost 100% of the Freedom caucus people are very supportive of Jim,” he said. “I haven’t talked to 100%. Everyone I’ve talked to is very supportive of Jim Jordan.”
He said their meeting Tuesday was about the Department of Justice, not the fallout over the OSU scandal.
Asked if this scandal affects Jordan’s ability to do his job, Meadows shot back, “Obviously not. … We are staying on focus on the job.”
Jordan is facing increased pressure and scrutiny as the House of Representatives returns from a week-long recess Tuesday and as the controversy has grown around him — with additional former wrestlers speaking out saying that Jordan knew about the sexual abuse and did nothing about it while he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Jordan has repeatedly denied that he knew about the alleged abuse.
“There’s an investigation going on, and if there were individuals who are — who were harmed, who were victims, then they deserve justice,” Jordan told CNN in a hallway interview Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Jordan says he has not sat down with Ohio State investigators yet, but that he intends to do so.
“We’re working on setting up a time to talk with them, yes,” Jordan said.
Faced with mounting questions over what he knew or didn’t know, behind the scenes there has been an effort by Jordan’s office to push forward allies to come out publicly in his defense, putting out statements from former coaches and colleagues vouching for Jordan’s side of the story. In a statement late Monday, a group of seven members of the House Freedom Caucus — of which Jordan is a co-founder — released a joint statement in support of their colleague’s “integrity and honesty.”
“In the United States, all citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Jim Jordan is not the exception,” Rep. Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican. “I am confident that when all facts are revealed, Congressman Jordan will be vindicated.”
But not all Freedom Caucus members are not rushing to his defense yet.
“The members are taking a wait and see approach,” a Republican source with knowledge of many members of the Freedom Caucus’s thinking told CNN Monday. “They aren’t making any judgments on him yet.”
The House Freedom Caucus will meet for their regular weekly meeting Tuesday on Capitol Hill — an important moment for Jordan to test whether he has the full support of his colleagues within the caucus.