House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Rep. Foley
Monday, October 2, 2006; 3:09 PM
SPEAKERS: U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JOHN SHIMKUS (R-IL)
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
HASTERT: The instant messages reportedly between Congressman Foley and a former page, sent in 2003, were vile and repulsive, both to myself and to my colleagues.
No one in the Republican leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus, saw those messages until last Friday when ABC News released them to the public.
When they 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.
The page program is an important of this institution. It has inspired many generations to enter public service. It is a trust. And as a parent and as the speaker of the House, I am disgusted that Congressman Foley broke that trust.
Anyone who had knowledge of these instant messages should have turned them over to authorities immediately so that kids could be protected.
I repeat again: The Republican leaders of the House did not have them. We have all said so, and on the record.
But someone did have them. And the Ethics Committee, the Justice Department, the news media, and anyone who can should help us find out who.
Yesterday, I sent a letter to the attorney general requesting that he investigate to what extent any federal laws were violated by Congressman Foley and also to find out who might have known about these sexually explicit instant messages.
I was pleased to read in the newspaper this morning that the FBI has begun to investigate.
I also sent a letter to Governor Bush requesting an investigation to determine what state laws were violated. And I'm certain the state of Florida will take my request seriously.
Today, I have met with Congressman Shimkus, who is the head of the Page Board, to discuss what we can do to make sure that this never happens again. This will not be my last meeting on this issue. I intend to get advice on how we can make this program as safe as possible.
Since I have been speaker, we have moved aggressively to ensure the safety of these kids.
HASTERT: We constructed a new living quarters with a state-of- art security systems. We have added even more adult supervision.
But we obviously need to do more, including providing assistance to these kids after they return home. After all, this vile instant messaging exchange reportedly took place after the page had returned home.
Moms and dads all across America know what a challenge it is to monitor contacts with their kids in this new world of instant communications in cyberspace. It's our challenge as well.
Over the weekend, I asked the clerk to move aggressively to set up a hotline so parents, grandparents, pages, former pages, anyone who has a concern about improper contact can confidently report improper contact.
Our pages are already taught to bring any concerns to their adult supervisor, but this will not -- this will be one more opportunity, especially for them, after they've left the program.
Before I turn over the microphone to Mr. Shimkus for his statement, let me add this: Congressman Foley duped a lot of people. He lied to Mr. Shimkus and he deceived his in-state paper when they each questioned him. He deceived the good men and women and organizations around the country with whom he worked to strengthen our child predator law.
I have known him for all the years he has served in this House, and he deceived me too.
SHIMKUS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As the chairman of the House Page Board, I have a responsibility to protect the students participating in the program and former participants. I have been honored to serve in this role.
And (inaudible) underestimate: I have been honored to be the chairman of the Page Board.
SHIMKUS: We've worked hard to make the page program the best program possible. In fact, the college board recognized the page program with an award for top honors in the preparation of students for college.
The instant messages Mark Foley reported sent to a former page are deplorable. When I learned of these instant messages last Friday from ABC news reports, the very thought of this behavior made me sick. And Mark Foley should be ashamed.
The page program is a valuable part of this institution. Pages have played an important role in Congress operations since the early 1800s. The integrity of this program must be maintained.
In recent years, we have made many improvements, including the construction of a new dorm with state-of-the-art security measures. We've also increased adult supervision for them. In the wake of 9/11, we implemented new, enhanced transportation and notification systems for the safety of pages.
The safety and protection of our pages has been a top priority in these changes and others.
Last week, I personally met with the current House pages. I told them that we are committed to their safety and protection and that we will stay in constant contact with them.
In addition, as the speaker said, we are setting up a 1-800 number which can be used to report any concerns, and can be used by pages former and current and their family members or others with concerns.
In the days ahead, I'll be working with the members of the Page Board and others from both inside and outside of Congress to make sure that the pages are safe both when we are in charge and when they return home.
As a father of three boys, I am personally mindful every day of just how difficult it is to protect our children, especially in the world of Internet and text messaging.
I am determined to do everything that we can to make sure that this kind of incident will never happen again.
HASTERT: Thank you very much.
Source: CQ Transcriptions © 2006, Congressional Quarterly Inc., All Rights Reserved