House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday indicated he opposed a congressional ethics probe into fellow Republican Rep. Jim Jordan after numerous former Ohio State University wrestlers alleged the lawmaker ignored reports of sexual misconduct when he was an assistant coach at the school in the 1980s and 1990s.
The House Ethics Committee, Ryan said, "investigates things that members do while they’re here, not things that happened a couple of decades ago when they weren’t in Congress."
Ryan said he called Jordan over the weekend to discuss the allegations, as well as to "check in on" the Ohio Republican following news that his nephew had been killed in a car accident.
"I have always known Jim Jordan to be a man of honesty and a man of integrity," Ryan said during a weekly press conference alongside other GOP House leaders.
The retiring speaker's remarks came after President Barack Obama's ethics czar, Norman Eisen, and another government watchdog filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics calling for a "preliminary inquiry" into whether Jordan's response to the allegations.
"If Rep. Jordan’s recent statements — that he had no knowledge that student wrestlers under his supervision were being sexually abused — are false, his present conduct in connection with this serious matter would fail to 'reflect creditably on the House'" in violation of House rules, their letter to the OCE says.
Ryan said he supports the university investigating the allegations of sexual abuse against Dr. Richard Strauss, who killed himself in 2005. Jordan, who was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, has since been accused of turning a blind eye to reports about Strauss' conduct.
Jordan has strongly denied any knowledge about the allegations against Strauss. "I never saw, never heard of, never was told about any type of abuse. If I had been, I would have dealt with it," Jordan said during a Fox News interview on Friday.
Ryan's remarks Wednesday appeared to align him with President Donald Trump, who was among the first political leaders to leap to Jordan's defense.
“Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington. I believe him 100 percent," Trump told reporters last week en route to a get-out-the-vote rally for Republicans in Montana. "No question in my mind," he added.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus, of which Jordan is a leading member, tweeted its own statement of support for the beleaguered congressman on Tuesday night.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, offered his support for Jordan in a statement that also proffered the theory that Jordan's accusers were trying to "gain twice from the same smear."
Jordan himself had pushed back against at least one of his accusers during the Fox interview, saying that former wrestler Mike DiSabato held a "vendetta" against the university and his family and has "all kinds of lawsuits against him."
House Democrats have been quiet on the matter. Representatives for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and several of Jordan's Democratic colleagues in the House Judiciary Committee did not immediately return requests for comment.