Well, well, well. It appears the Republicans actually can make the Foley controversy worse. As if it wasn’t bad enough that John Boehner knew about Foley’s track record of sexual harassment of his underage pages, now it turns out that Speaker Denny Hastert lied about what he knew and when he knew it. Roll Call reports that Thomas Reynolds (R-NY), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Hastert about Foley’s predatory actions in late winter or early spring of this year:
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) issued a statement Saturday in which he said that he had informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of allegations of improper contacts between then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and at least one former male page, contradicting earlier statements from Hastert.’
GOP sources said Reynolds told Hastert earlier in 2006, shortly after the February GOP leadership elections. Hastert’s response to Reynolds’ warning remains unclear.
Hastert’s staff insisted Friday night that he was not told of the Foley allegations and are scrambling to respond to Reynolds’ statement.
I cannot tell CQ readers how disgusted I am with Speaker Hastert. Reynolds is no fringe nutcase; he’s the man Hastert trusted to run the midterm re-elections of the Republican caucus. He has no reason to lie, but Hastert apparently did. This also calls into question Boehner’s earlier reversal, when he denied saying that he informed Hastert after Hastert denied knowing of Foley’s activities.
Hastert should have been a man from the beginning and admit that he knew about Foley. Now he has destroyed any credibility left in his Speakership, and he has only compounded the embarrassment for the GOP caucus. Foley’s actions reflect on Foley alone, but thanks to Hastert and perhaps Boehner, the aftermath will reflect on all Republicans in the House.
Republicans have to act swiftly to remove the stench of Foleygate from the party. They need to demand the resignation of Hastert as Speaker, as well as Boehner as Majority Leader if he lied to protect Hastert. Allowing Foley off the hook was a mistake in judgment, but this is a betrayal of those who trusted Hastert to lead the House with dignity, honesty, and integrity.
CLARIFICATION: When I say resign, I mean from their leadership positions. Neither committed a crime, and their constituents should judge whether they should continue to represent them.
UPDATE: CQ readers seem to have misunderstood what this post concerns. Here’s what Hastert’s office was saying yesterday:
The resignation rocked the Capitol, and especially Foley’s GOP colleagues, as lawmakers were rushing to adjourn for at least six weeks. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate “contact” between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.
It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged online exchanges between Foley and the boy.
Today, Reynolds’ statement demolishes Hastert’s denial. Hastert lied about his knowledge of the case. It doesn’t make any difference if Hastert got Foley to resign, or whether some news outlets sat on the story. He bald-faced lied, and he apparently got Boehner to retract his statement that Boehner had informed him of Foley’s inappropriate behavior in the spring. Hastert tried to cover his own butt by hiding the truth, and it appears Boehner tried to help him do it.
Also, this isn’t a “dirty trick”. The timing might have been manipulated, but a dirty trick involves false allegations. No one framed Foley — he did this to himself.
UPDATE II: Another article from yesterday that reflects that Hastert’s office denied knowing anything of the Foley allegations. Ron Bonjean, Hastert’s spokesman, made it clear that Hastert knew nothing of the earlier allegations, and bear in mind that this was when people were asking about how the Republicans could have failed to inform the Page Board of the allegations.
UPDATE III: One last update, and then I’m moving on. I am not so much angry about the decision made by GOP leadership that the evidence and the demands of the parents to drop the issue left them little to do about Foley other than chastise him. I think they should have at least informed the Page Board, since that is the procedure, but that’s a simple error in judgment. I’m not claiming that Hastert knew about the IMs months ago, because apparently no one but a few Democratic operatives knew about that until last week.
What makes me angry and disappointed is the denial by Hastert that he knew anything about Foley’s issues on Friday. Recall that Majority Leader John Boehner had already told the press that he told Hastert about the earlier e-mails months ago, and after Hastert’s statement, Boehner had to retract that. Only after Reynolds released his statement did Hastert acknowledge that he knew about Foley’s earlier issues. It’s the dishonesty and the butt-covering that I find unacceptable in a House Speaker, who is two heartbeats away from the Presidency.