Two former Ohio State wrestlers say they were personally pushed by former Buckeyes coach Russ Hellickson to backtrack on accusations that Rep. Jim Jordan ignored alleged sexual abuse by a team doctor, according to a report from NBC News.
According to the report, both Dunyasha Yetts and Mike DiSabato received messages and phone calls on July 4, a day after Jordan was hit with the accusations from the two and one more wrestler who requested anonymity. Yetts is the only wrestler of the group to say he directly told Jordan about the abuse from Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss. DiSabato also claimed that Jordan had seen frequent inappropriate behavior in the team’s showers while he was an assistant coach at Ohio State.
Ohio State announced that its independent investigation into the matter revealed more than 100 male student-athletes across 14 different sports with first-hand accounts of Strauss’ sexual misconduct. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.
‘It might make you feel better’
In one message screencapped by NBC News, Hellickson told Yetts he could connect he with “someone” if they wanted to release a statement ostensibly correcting the record.
The message sent to Yetts, from NBC News:
“I’m sorry you got caught up in the media train. If you think the story got told wrong about Jim, you could probably write a statement for release that tells your story and corrects what you feel bad about. I can put you in contact with someone who would release it. It might make you feel better.”
During a phone call, Hellickson also reportedly claimed he was under pressure from Jordan and his supporters to make “a bold statement to defend Jimmy” during a phone call. However, Yetts claimed Hellickson said he had a limit to how much he could defend Jordan.
“He said, ‘I will defend Jimmy until I have to put my hand on a Bible and be asked to tell the truth, then Jimmy will be on his own,’” Yetts said in an interview this week, recalling his conversation with Hellickson. “I told him, ‘I’m going to contradict you, coach, because I’m telling the truth.’”
Hellickson released statement supporting Jim Jordan
A day later, Hellickson released a statement in which he called Jordan “the most honorable man I have ever known,” but did not directly say whether or not he believes Jordan knew about the abuse. According to NBC News, the statement was one of several gathered by conservative public relations firm Shirley & Banister.
NBC News reports DiSabato, Yetts and three other wrestlers interviewed all said they held “deep respect” for Hellickson, but Jordan’s strong denials had put the coach in the awkward position of choosing between his former apprentice and his wrestlers.
Jim Jordan has denied all accusations
The same day Hellickson was asking Yetts and DiSabato to recant, Jordan confirmed he knew Strauss while working at Ohio State, but firmly denied he had any knowledge of the abuse his wrestlers were facing.
Rep. Jim Jordan confirms he knew Dr. Strauss when he worked at Ohio State University but denies he knew about any abuse: "There's no truth to the fact that I knew of any abuse… I never knew of any abuse from Dr. Strauss plain and simple" https://t.co/H68elc3CrK pic.twitter.com/EG7FwD2ffY
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) July 4, 2018
Supporters of Jordan, who recently announced his bid for Speaker of the House, have since gone on the offensive, collecting statements from other wrestlers praising Jordan trying to dismiss the accounts against him. Yetts told NBC News that Jordan allies used an 18-month prison term for a white collar crime to try to discredit him, while a wrestler asked to stay anonymous because his family is “terrified” of being targeted.
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