Republicans Offer New Talking Point To Defend Hastert ... Even Though It Contradicts What Hastert Said
Conservatives are pushing a new talking point to defend the role of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in handling the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL).
The talking point: That when ABC made Foley's sexually explicit communications public, Hastert "dealt with it immediately" by going to Foley and saying, "Resign or be expelled."
It sounds so pleasing to conservative ears. Too bad it's not true.
How do we know? It disagrees with what Hastert himself said 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 expulsion from the House of Representatives."
Maybe Hastert misspoke. Maybe he meant: "I told him he would be expelled if he did not resign."
But beyond Hastert's own words, the timeline makes the Republican talking point impossible.
As the Center for American Progress notes: "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 6 p.m. Foley had already resigned three hours earlier, at around 3 p.m.
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."
Still, all those facts didn't stop Republicans from spreading the false talking point. Each of the following quotes came on Oct. 6:
REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R-MI): 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.
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.
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.