During the first impeachment hearings of then President Donald Trump, I wrote about Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan as the snarling face of the Republican Party. In media terms, he radiated anger, aggression and outrage against anyone who would dare attack the president.
He has used that media image of shirt-sleeved defender of Mr. Trump and hater of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to raise millions of dollars. But in recent days, his image has changed dramatically from Mr. Snarly to Mr. Squirmy as members of the media have squeezed him on whether or not he talked to Mr. Trump on Jan. 6, the day the Capitol was stormed, and if so, when. His usual in-your-face bluster has given way to shaky, shifty, evasive answers. Instead of his hard-charging posture of attack, he looks and sounds like someone operating out of a defensive crouch.
The first bad TV moment for Mr. Jordan came courtesy of Fox News on July 27 in an interview following the first day of House hearings on the insurrection.
“Did you talk to the former president that day?” anchor Bret Baier asked Mr. Jordan.
“I’ve talked to the president umpteen times, I mean thousands, not thousands, countless times,” Mr. Jordan replied.
“I mean on Jan. 6,” Mr. Baier said interrupting.
“Countless times I’ve talked to the president,” Mr. Jordan continued, ignoring the specific question. “I talked to the president numerous times. I continue to talk to the president.”
“No, no, I mean about Jan. 6, Congressman,” Baier cut in again trying to get a specific answer.
“Yes,” Mr. Jordan said. “I mean, I’ve talked to the president so many times, I can’t remember, I can’t remember all the days I’ve talked to him. But I’ve certainly talked to the president.”
With many in the media taking that evasive answer for an affirmation that Mr. Jordan did talk to Mr. Trump on Jan. 6, the Ohio congressman tried to clean it up in an interview with Spectrum News the next day. But it only got worse for Mr. Jordan’s tough-guy TV image.
“There’s some confusion with what you told Bret Baier on Fox News Tuesday night, so I just want to clear it up,” the Spectrum interviewer asked. “Yes or no, did you speak with President Donald Trump on Jan. 6th?”
“Yeah,” Mr. Jordan said. “I spoke with the president last week. I speak with him all the time. I spoke with him on Jan. 6th. I mean, I speak with the president all the time, and I don’t think that’s unusual … I, I, I’m, I’m actually kind of amazed that people keep asking me this question.“
Ignoring the misdirection, the interviewer pressed, “On Jan. 6, did you speak with him before, during or after the Capitol was attacked?”
“I spoke with him that day, after? I think after,” Mr. Jordan said. “I don’t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don’t know. I’d have to go back. I don’t know when those conversations happened.”
Michael Steele, an MSNBC commentator, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and chair of the Republican National Committee, lit up social media with his critique of Mr. Jordan’s inability to remember when he spoke with Mr. Trump.
“I can tell you the time, the place, the date of every conversation I’ve had with every president of this country, period, going back to Bill Clinton. I can tell you where I was, I can tell you what was said. This (expletive) is sitting up there acting like, ‘Well, I don’t know if it was before, I don’t know if it was after. Oh Lordy, Jesus, I don’t remember. I gotta look at my notes,’” Mr. Steele said on “The Breakdown,” a video series of the Lincoln Project.
“You know what time you called the president, and you know what you said,” Mr. Steele added as if addressing Mr. Jordan. “You’re a grown-ass man. Stop acting like 10-year-old kid who got caught masturbating by his momma. Stop it.”
Mr. Jordan, who is expected to be subpoenaed by the committee to testify about his interaction with Mr. Trump on Jan. 6, has been the lead attack dog for members of Congress on the far right who blindly promote Mr. Trump and his Big Lie. But instead of an agent of intimidation, he’s becoming an object of ridicule.
David Zurawik is The Baltimore Sun’s media critic. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter:@davidzurawik.