Top conservatives have fanned out on television to defend House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s role in the Foley scandal.
A key talking point: when ABC made Foley’s sexually explicit communications public, Hastert “dealt with it immediately” by going to Foley and telling him, “Resign or be expelled.” Both Ken Mehlman and Ed Gillespie said Hastert’s bold ultimatum to Foley was something not seen “in thirty years in this town.”
In fact, their entire story is a fabrication. Hastert could not have issued an ultimatum to Foley after the sexually explicit instant messages were made public, because by that time, Foley had already resigned. ABC did not make Foley’s sexually explicit communications public until Friday, September 29, at 6pm ET. Foley had already resigned three hours earlier, at around 3pm ET.
As ABC producer Maddy Sauer has described, Foley decided to resign not after an ultimatum from Speaker Hastert, but after ABC called his office on Friday morning and read Foley staffers the instant messages they had obtained. According to Sauer, Foley’s office called ABC an hour later and said the congressman would be resigning.
Speaker Hastert himself acknowledged that he had no role in Foley’s resignation in his first statement on the issue on Monday:
When [the instant messages] were released, Congressman Foley resigned. And I’m glad he did. If he had not, I would have demanded his expusion from the House of Representatives.
Full transcript video:
HASTERT: When Congress found out about the explicit messages, Republicans dealt with it immediately and the culprit was gone. [10/5/06]
HASTERT: I, first of all, learned of this last Friday, when we were about to leave Congress for the break, to go out and campaign. And that’s the first time that I heard of the explicit language. When it happened, Republicans acted. And the guy’s gone. [10/5/06]
HOEKSTRA: I mean, we were all disgusted by what we found out last week Friday. But we also need to remember that what we did do on Friday is the speaker, the leadership and the House Republican conference, we spoke with clarity. It was a defining moment for us. We said, Resign or be expelled. Mark Foley left the House of Representatives within hours of this information becoming public. [10/6/06]
MEHLMAN: The fact is, what Denny Hastert did is something that we haven’t seen done in thirty years in this town in Washington DC, and that is he said to a member of congress, either you go or we’re going to make you go. That happened the moment that Denny Hastert found out about this. [10/6/06]
GILLESPIE: In fact, voters are starting to understand that speaker Hastert reacted very strongly. As the father of a 16-year-old son, I appreciate him going to Mark Foley and saying, “You either resign or you’re going to be expelled.” That would be the first time in thirty years. [10/6/06]