Peoria Journal Star
October 4, 2006
Hastert rejects demands to quit
Foley alleges clergy molestation as youth; scandal continues to
WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Speaker Dennis Hastert on
Tuesday rejected the demand by some high-profile conservatives
that he resign his speaker's post and won a strong show of support
from President Bush on his handling of the congressional page
Meanwhile, former Rep. Mark Foley's attorney said at a Florida
news conference that Foley, 52, had been molested between the ages
of 13 and 15 by a clergyman. David Roth also said Foley, who had
not spoken about his sexual orientation, wanted people to know
that he is gay. Roth insisted, though, that Foley never had sexual
contact with a minor.
In an appearance on conservative host Rush Limbaugh's talk
show, Hastert blamed Democrats for promoting the page scandal even
as the second-ranking House Republican contradicted his account of
the scandal. The Illinois Republican, whose clouthas helped
further numerous projects in the state, is facing
the biggest challenge of his tenure as he confronts the scandal
over former Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate contact with
congressional pages and tries to hang on to his party's majority
against increasingly daunting odds.
"I'm not going to do that," Hastert said when Limbaugh asked
him whether he would resign.
Hastert blamed Democrats for leaking sexually explicit e-mails
between Foley and former pages from 2003 just before the upcoming
"We have a story to tell and the Democrats have - in my view -
put this thing forward to try to block us from telling the story,"
Hastert said. "They're trying to put us on the defense."
Campaigning for Republicans in California, the president said
he was "shocked and dismayed" at Foley's actions and expressed
confidence in the speaker's call for a thorough investigation.
"I know Denny Hastert. I meet with him a lot," Bush said. "He
is a father, teacher, coach who cares about the children of this
"... I know that he wants all the facts to come out and he
wants to ensure that these children up there on Capitol Hill are
protected. I'm confident he will provide whatever leadership he
can to law enforcement in this investigation."
The House ethics committee has scheduled a meeting on Foley's
actions for Thursday, in closed session. The House OK'd an inquiry
into the matter last Friday.
Hastert told reporters on Monday that he wasn't aware of the
inappropriate e-mails until Friday. Foley resigned Friday after
ABC News reported the Internet exchanges. Rep. John Shimkus,
R-Collinsville, who chairs the House Page Board, acknowledged he
confronted Foley last fall and asked him to stop e-mailing a male
page at the teen's parents' request, but said he wasn't aware of
the sexually explicit Internet messages. However, an increasing
number of conservatives have called for Hastert to step down.
"Hastert has fumbled this big time," conservative activist
Richard Viguerie said. "There was smoke, and Denny Hastert was the
fire chief, and he walked away from the smoke. At a bare minimum,
he should have looked at Foley's computer hard drive."
Viguerie predicted that many conservatives won't turn out on
election day, which could cause Republicans to lose control of the
Also Tuesday, the reliably conservative Washington Times
demanded Hastert's resignation.
"Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags
fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not
even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's
revelations - or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes
that a brewing scandal would simply blow away," the editorial
Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio,
appeared to be distancing himself from Hastert when he said he had
talked to the speaker about the e-mails last spring and that
Hastert "told me it was taken care of." He made the comments
during an interview on radio station WLW in Cincinnati.
LaHood weighs in
Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, blamed Hastert's staff for failing
to inform him.
"If there's anyone at fault, it's the speaker's staff. They
should have brought this to his attention," LaHood said in an
interview on CNN.
He said he believes Hastert when he says he doesn't remember if
Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., who heads the GOP campaign committee,
told him about it.
However, LaHood acknowledged that the scandal is capturing
voters' attention across the country and making it difficult for
Republicans to get their message out.
"It's going to be tough. We have a big job ahead to energize
our base," LaHood said. "The truth is nobody knows who the
majority party is going to be. It's going to be a very close
election. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of persuading
to do. We have to make sure our people get to the polls."
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee said it's too early to make predictions on which party
will control the House after the elections.
"I think what has become clear here is that you have a
Republican leadership who knew that there were inappropriate
e-mails between a member of Congress and an underage child and
instead of acting as parents or acting as protectors, they . . .
decided to protect the congressional seat instead," said DCCC
spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg.
But Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican
Congressional Committee, predicted the Foley scandal will have no
effect on the elections.
"I don't know of any member of Congress who lost because of
something someone else did," Forti said. "There's no way that
conservatives are going to let Democrats take over the House."
He contended Hastert has wide-ranging support, citing the
Limbaugh appearance and Bush's statements.
Democrats have "no business playing politics with this," Forti
said, noting that in 1983 several now-high-ranking Democrats voted
against censuring Rep. Gerry Studds, D-Mass., for having sexual
relations with a male page. At the same time, the House censured
Rep. Daniel Crane, R-Ill., for having sexual relations with a
The Associated Press also contributed to this story.
Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or email@example.com.