Speaker Dennis Hastert on the Foley scandal.
HH: I begin today with Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert. Mr. Speaker, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
DH: Hugh, it’s great to be on with you.
HH: Now the Washington Times called for your resignation today. Are you going to quit?
HH: Why not?
DH: Well, first of all, what happened with the Foley affair, I’m sorry it happened. We did the best we did with the information that we had at the time. And we’re going to try to do a better job. We are going to do a better job. The fact is that we’ve had…put these kids in a new dormitory, safer, gave them electronic protections, gave them more supervision, almost, it is 24 hour supervision, more people on the job. And what we’ve been able to do over the last few years is just make it much more safer for them, but evidently, not safe enough. So we’ve got to not only protect kids when they’re in Washington, we also have to protect kids when they’re out away from Washington, and at home. And that’s exactly what happened there. We’re working to do that.
HH: Did you or any other member of the House leadership or staff, to your knowledge, know anything about these IM’s until they began to be leaked to ABC News?
DH: Absolutely not. We didn’t know anything about them until they were dropped sometime Friday. And at that point, we confronted Foley, and he left.
HH: One commentator that actually works at my blog, has said that when the House leadership got word that a gay member who had a reputation for lusting after young men, and being overly chummy with the page program, had sent any appropriate e-mails. Was any of that known to you, Mr. Speaker?
DH: No, not at all. When this happened, it was all last November, as I understand, we were trying to do the reaction to the Katrina situation, we were doing the deficit reduction act, which was the first time we had done it in almost two decades, and saved about $40 billion dollars. And at the same time, we had the Tom Delay problems that were going on through the House, and I had my hands full. So when an inquiry went into our office, it went to the clerk’s office, it went to the chairman of the page board, and he worked on it directly from there. That was John Shimkus. And that’s exactly…John confronted him, found out we didn’t have the text at the request of the family. He found out exactly what the problem was. It was over-friendly text, and confronted Foley, told him not to do it again, and not to do it with anybody else.
HH: Was it because of a concern about the appearance of impropriety? Or was it a concern over Foley himself?
DH: No, it was a concern that the parents had with his contact. It would have been the same with anybody. It was a situation where John Shimkus went forward, did what he was asked to do by the family, and got the job done.
HH: Have you heard, Mr. Speaker, the allegations that perhaps former…that the Louisiana Congressman’s former staff are peddling these things?
DH: No, I’ve heard a lot of rumors, but I haven’t substantiated. What we’re trying to do from our point of view is to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and move on and get our message out.
HH: Are there any other shoes that are going to drop in this scandal, to your knowledge?
DH: Not to my knowledge. If I do, I’d tell you, but I don’t know.
HH: So what’s going to…how does this play out, Mr. Speaker, because obviously, the left, and their allies in the media, want this thing to run for the next 35 days.
DH: Oh, absolutely. They think that this is their silver bullet that will stop us from getting our message out. The fact is that they don’t have any other message except scandal, they haven’t done anything on border security, they haven’t done anything on keeping, getting the economy better. We have. We’ve got the best economy we’ve had in years, the stock market’s great, jobs lost are down, we’ve got an extra $180 billion dollars in revenue just this year alone, ever since January, more than we expected to reduce the deficit. And we’ve done a lot of things in the war against terror, plus secured the border against illegal immigrants. So we’ve had a lot to talk about, a lot to do. We just need to get back on track.
HH: Now given that this is a lot of noise that’s preventing that message from getting out, and even the worse message that Speaker Pelosi strikes fear in my heart because of the war effort, is there any upside to be had in just having a press conference, and let them ask as many questions as they want until they all go home?
DH: Well, we did that yesterday, basically. We had a press conference, and we just opened the doors and let people come in and ask questions. And I don’t know if you ever completely feed the beast. I’ve been on the phone all day today, probably will be tomorrow, too, doing the same thing.
HH: Is it your opinion that whoever is managing the release of these IM’s is doing so for political reasons?
DH: Well, first of all, who has these IM’s, and who’s holding on to them? It’s been rumored that this CREW organization in Washington has it, which is the…I understand a Soros-backed organization. It’s a planned thing. It did the anti-Delay thing, and if they are the ones that have these messages, anybody that held onto these messages at any time, I think, is wrong, because if we would have had these messages three years ago, we would have prevented anything like this to happen.
HH: Do you have any explanation as to why the Washington Times has come after you?
DH: I really don’t know. I’m going to continue to do the job I have to do. I don’t know why they made that decision. I know it’s Tony Blankley who usually makes good decisions. Evidently…I just don’t know why they did it. They didn’t talk to us.
HH: Mr. Speaker, the St. Petersberg Times and the Miami Herald had these e-mails in November of last year. They did not judge them newsworthy. Do you disagree with their decision not to have published them? Or do you wish that they had?
DH: Well, in hindsight, I wish they had, but quite frankly, when they looked at it, they thought that they would have been liable to try to publish something, because there wasn’t any there there.
HH: The Time Magazine account of this, which I’ve also published at Hughhewitt.com, has asserted that this was just…when they only had the e-mails and not the IM’s, that it would have been very, very difficult for a gay man to have survived such a scandal. Did that influence at all the handling by the House of the original e-mails?
DH: No, the handling of the House was strictly by the numbers. There was an inquiry that came in, it went to the clert of the House who referred it to the chairman of the page board. He confronted Mr. Foley immediately, and found out that there was nothing sexually explicit in the message, and just told him not to do it. That’s what the wishes of the family was, and that’s what he did.
HH: Concerning other member’s behavior, Mr. Speaker, what is the general rule? We’ve got Mr. Jefferson under investigation, you’ve got Mr. Menendez now in the Senate, but there are allegations about his conduct when he was in the House. What happens when allegations come to you?
DH: When allegations come to us, we refer them to, if they’re allegations that break the rules of the House, they go right to the House Ethics Committee, our committee on standards. If they are of a criminal nature, they’re referred to the U.S. Attorney General.
HH: Now is it appropriate for House members to communicate with their interns and their pages?
DH: I think…no, House members on business, their interns, I think it happens all the time. To their pages, I think that’s a different situation.
HH: So is there going to be a new rule in place that communication between members and pages is simply verboten, because I think that might destroy the reason you want to be a page.
DH: Well, you know, I just don’t see that pages and members have any type of give and take on electronic media. If they talk on the floor, it’s going to happen, because that’s what this whole interplay is all about. But it’s not off-time type of conversation.
HH: To your knowledge, have any members been in electronic contact, other than Mr. Foley, with any other page?
DH: Oh, I would not have the slightest idea. I couldn’t tell you.
HH: Should they step forward if they have been to try to put this behind them?
DH: Well, you know, it’s like you’re invited over for the office party next Wednesday night. That’s one thing, you know?
HH: Last couple of questions, Mr. Speaker. Obviously, you’ve got five weeks, and you’ve got this major scandal, and people are worried about overnight pollings. Have you been taking any soundings on what’s happening to the GOP as a result of the Foley scandal?
DH: I think Tom Reynolds has. Yesterday was Yom Kippur, so that kind of knocked everything in a cocked hat. So I think we will be doing polling, as we do all the time on every close race that we have. But we’re going to go forward. We have a good message to talk about, and we need to get that message out.
HH: And is there a split between you and Tom Reynolds, as some are reporting in the media?
DH: Not at all. I talked to Tom this afternoon.
HH: And so, is he going to make any appearance to convey that as well?
DH: Well, I mean, he did do a press conference yesterday, and I think…I don’t know exactly what he said. It was up in Buffalo, but we have worked together all along, and we’ll continue to do it.
HH: Has any member come to you and asked you to resign?
HH: I’m glad to hear that. Mr. Speaker, always a pleasure. Look forward to talking to you again.
DH: My pleasure. Thank you.
HH: Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He’s the target right now of the left wing media machine.
End of interview.