WASHINGTON - House Speaker Dennis Hastert on
Monday defended the way he and fellow Illinois
Rep. John Shimkus handled complaints of improper
e-mails from former Rep. Mark Foley to
Shimkus, a Republican from Collinsville who
chairs a panel that oversees the page program,
was criticized by Democrats and some Republicans
for failing to take stronger action last fall
when initial complaints were made that Foley had
asked for a former male page's photograph.
"Congressman Foley duped a lot of people. He
lied to Mr. Shimkus, and he deceived his
in-state paper when they each questioned him,"
Hastert told reporters. "I have known him for
all the years he served in this House. He
deceived me, too."
Foley, a six-term Republican from Florida,
resigned Friday after news reports that he sent
e-mails and instant messages of a sexual nature
to current and former pages. Foley has checked
into a treatment facility for alcoholism, his
attorney announced Monday
Questioned repeatedly about why Shimkus
quietly confronted Foley last year about some
non-explicit e-mails without consulting other
members of the House Page Board, Hastert
indicated Shimkus was following the wishes of
the parents of the former page who had received
"I think Congressman Shimkus acted in an
expedited manner to find out what happened,
again with what the framework of what the family
concern was," Hastert said.Shimkus did not take
questions from reporters after making a brief
statement with Hastert in the Capitol.
Shimkus described the instant messages Foley
sent to a former page - which are reportedly
more explicit than the initial e-mails he
discussed with Foley in 2005 - as "deplorable."
"When I learned of these instant messages
last Friday from ABC News reports, the very
thought of this behavior made me sick. Mark
Foley should be ashamed," Shimkus said.
Shimkus, who is seeking re-election to his
sixth term, was criticized by the other two
members of the House Page Board for not
informing them of the initial complaints last
"I was outraged to learn that the House
Republican leadership kept to itself the
knowledge of Mr. Foley's despicable behavior
toward the House pages," said Rep. Dale Kildee,
D-Mich., who serves on the board.
He also complained about not being consulted
on changes in the page program proposed by
Hastert and Shimkus on Monday. The two
Republicans said they were setting up a
toll-free hot line to collect other complaints
by current and former pages, their family
members or others.
"Once again, the House Republican leadership
is following the same pattern of unilateral
decision-making that caused this problem in the
first place..." Kildee said.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., the
third member of the panel, told a hometown
paper: "I feel we should have been informed. I'm
absolutely disgusted by what I'm hearing. I was
caught totally unaware."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called for Shimkus
to resign as head of the panel.
Meanwhile, the conservative group Judicial
Watch has strongly criticized House Republican
leaders, including Hastert and Shimkus, for
failing to take action earlier.
"When and what did Foley's House colleagues
know about his seemingly illegal and clearly
immoral behavior and what did they do about it?"
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton asked. "Any
member of Congress who knew about Foley's
inappropriate actions before the recent flood of
news coverage and failed to take meaningful
action should resign."
Hastert insisted that "no one in the
Republican leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus,
saw those (explicit) messages until last
Friday." Hastert and Shimkus both emphasized
that the improper contact occurred after the
pages had left Washington.
When the House clerk brought the complaints
to Shimkus last fall, Shimkus said in a
statement released Friday night, "I took
immediate action to investigate the matter."
When he asked Foley about the e-mail, Foley said
he was simply acting as a mentor and that
nothing inappropriate occurred. Nevertheless,
Shimkus said he asked him to stop contacting the
In a meeting with reporters after Monday's
Capitol news conference, Hastert was asked why
Shimkus didn't suspect more was behind a
52-year-old man asking a 16-year-old boy for his
"I think that is apparent that would raise a
red flag. Evidently, it raised a red flag with
the kid, with the page, and that is what
triggered this response," Hastert said.
But he defended Shimkus, saying, "What he did
was to make the contact that the parents wanted
him to or wanted somebody to."
Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686