The indictment last month of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) on charges of illegally concealing millions in banks withdrawals and lying to the FBI also revealed another serious breach: that he had allegedly sexually abused a former male student during his time as a high school teacher and wrestling coach.
An Illinois woman, Jolene Burdge, has since claimed that her late brother, Steve Reinboldt, was sexually abused by Hastert while serving as student equipment manager for the Yorkville High School wrestling team in the 1970s. Burdge said that her brother told her the abuse occurred “all through high school.” Since then, federal prosecutors allege that Hastert paid millions in hush money to an unnamed “Individual A”, all while evading federal banking laws.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY), a prominent House Republican who served under Hastert, discussed the matter on the John Gambling Show shortly after the indictment came down in May, but only saw one victim in the ordeal: Hastert. “I don’t know what this is about,” King said. “Apparently this person came and threatened to disclose something on Denny Hastert that goes back over 35 years, that happened 35 years ago, and he was taking money out illegally to pay the person. The only victim here is Denny Hastert.”
“What happened back in the 60s or 70s, I don’t know,” King concluded.
Listen to the relevant portion of the interview beginning at 20:25:
King isn’t the only one on the right whose first instinct was to protect Hastert rather than his alleged victim. Multiple personalities at Fox News, including Brit Hume and Geraldo Rivera, also tried to portray Hastert as the real victim after the indictment was announced. (Their argument that he was a victim of blackmail isn’t at all clear-cut, as civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom explained.) If it proves true that Hastert was a victim of extortion, prosecutors can always charge his blackmailer, an option they have declined to exercise thus far.
Hastert has a long record of questionable ethics, including concealing sexual messages between former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) and underage interns, which later erupted into a major public scandal.