Conservatives also seek Hastert's resignation

Brian Beutler
Published: Monday October 2, 2006

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Despite denying today that he had any knowledge of the instant message conversations that resulted in Mark Foley’s resignation from Congress, House Speaker Dennis Hastert is being called on to resign by liberals and conservatives alike.

At a press conference today, Hastert read a prepared statement in which he denied having any knowledge about the online conversations from 2003. "No one in the Republican Leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus, saw those messages until last Friday when ABC News released them to the public."

He added that he found the messages "vile and repulsive."

But those statements were not enough to silence an increasingly vocal chorus of critics on all sides of the political spectrum calling for investigations into the House leadership and even for the Speaker's resignation.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi harshly criticized Hastert for failing to answer questions, adding, "Republican Leaders admitted to knowing about Mr. Foley's abhorrent behavior for six months to a year and failed to protect the children in their trust. Republican leaders must be investigated by the Ethics Committee and immediately questioned under oath."

Likewise, Rep. Dale Kildee, the Democratic member of the House Page Board, released a strongly worded statement expressing outrage that he had not been informed about the emails at any point after Republicans on the board had been made aware of them: "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."

He added that the noticeable Republican tendency of leaving the Democratic member of the board out of any decision-making processes continues even today: "I am now equally outraged to learn that Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced today that there will be changes in the policies of the House Page program. Once again, I was not informed of the meeting today, nor was I consulted in any way about any proposed changes."

But liberals aren't the only ones exasperated by the steps Republicans in Congress may have taken to cover up the sex scandal.

Conservative activists have come out strongly as well against those who knew about the emails early on. David Bossie, president of Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, told the right-wing magazine Human Events, "Speaker Hastert had knowledge of Congressman Foley's inappropriate behavior and chose to protect a potential pedophile and powerful colleague over a congressional page."

He went on: "This inaction demonstrates a lack of leadership on Speaker Hastert's part, and calls into question both his judgment and character. If Speaker Hastert was willing to sacrifice a child to protect Rep. Foley's seat and his own leadership position, then he surely does not share our American and conservative values... Speaker Hastert's calls for an investigation are too late; he has already failed in his duty to investigate and prosecute this matter before it became a public relations problem. This lack of leadership is not only morally repugnant, but it may cost Republicans the House in November. Mr. Hastert should resign immediately."

His thoughts were echoed by colleague Michael Reagan, radio host and adopted son of President Ronald Reagan, who cited his own victimization at the hands of a child predator when calling for Republican resignations: "Any member of Congress who was aware of the sexual emails and protected the congressman should also resign effective immediately. I was sexually abused by a day camp counselor at age eight and also made to be part of child pornography."

The FBI is now conducting an investigation into Foley’s actions, though questions about their unwillingness to take steps when they were first alerted to the letters many months ago remain unanswered.