Hastert Holds a Media Availability
Thursday, October 5, 2006; 3:02 PM
OCTOBER 5, 2006
SPEAKER: U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL),
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
HASTERT: Well, thank you very much for everybody showing up today.
I'm sorry -- you know, when you talk about the page issue and what's happened in the Congress, I'm deeply sorry that this has happened.
And the bottom line is that we're taking responsibility, because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before: The buck stops here.
For something like this to occur, our system obviously isn't designed for the electronic age of Instant Messages.
When the Congress found out about the explicit messages, Republicans dealt with it immediately and the culprit was gone. We are now trying to correct the problem.
We've asked the Ethics Committee to look into this matter and we asked for criminal investigations to be opened by the Justice Department, the FBI and the State of Florida.
We have a toll-free number where people can confidently call. And we've reached out to experts around the country to put a system in place to make sure this never happens again.
The tip number is 1-866-384-0481.
We will do everything possible to make the program safe for the kids while they're in our care in Washington, D.C.
HASTERT: And we will make sure that we can be a resource for their parents once they return home.
We're looking for a person of high caliber to advise us on the page program. I reached out to the Democrat leader and shared with her some of the ideas and we hope to resolve this soon.
Final point: Our children need to be protected. And we're going to do everything we can to protect them.
I'll take some questions.
HASTERT: On that point, I only know what I've seen in the press and what I've heard. There's no ultimate, real source of information, but that's what I've read. And that's what I've heard in the press.
And so the fact is: We've turned this whole thing over to the FBI for us to try to find out what happened. And that's what we want to do. And any member of Congress that is involved in this or any staffer needs to comply and the results will be there.
HASTERT: And that's what we want to do. And any member of Congress that is involved in this, or any staffer, needs to comply. And the results will be there.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, will you set the record straight on a couple of things?
Tell us once again, if you will, when you learned that there was more than a minor problem (OFF-MIKE) something that had a predatory feel to it (OFF-MIKE)?
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. But the fact is that I don't know who knew what, when. We know that there are reports of people that knew it and, kind of, fed it out or leaked it to the press.
That's why we've asked for an investigation.
So let me just say -- that's why we've asked for an investigation: to find who that is. If it's members of my staff that didn't do the job, we will act appropriately. If it's somebody else's staff, they ought to act appropriately as well.
QUESTION: Nobody's admitted it to you?
No one in your own staff has acknowledged knowing the seriousness of the problem, one, two or three years ago and, certainly, no one told you about it?
QUESTION: And, if they didn't, were they derelict?
HASTERT: I didn't hear the rest of your question.
QUESTION: Were they derelict, Mr. Speaker, if they didn't let you know what was going on?
HASTERT: Well, my staff has been -- if somebody didn't let us know, then there's a problem. And I think the investigation will find that out.
QUESTION: How were the e-mails characterized? How were they characterized? Were they just "overly friendly"? Not only as the speaker, but as a former teacher, did that not ring any alarms to you...
HASTERT: We were advised -- our office and then the clerk's office and to the chairman of the page board that there was a Katrina message, period. We knew of no other e-mails -- we -- in that system. And there were no other e-mails other than that one that I know of. And we didn't even have the e-mail because the parents didn't want to give the e-mail out. They said, "Stop it."
The guy that I asked to do that job a long time ago was John Shimkus. John Shimkus is an Army ranger. He's a tough guys. He goes right to the point when there's a problem.
He confronted the member. And the member said that he would stop doing that; asked if there was any other messages. He said no. And he said, "Don't do it again." You know, that's what we did. The parents were happy.
HASTERT: Could we have done it better? Could the Page Board have handled it better? In retrospect, probably, yes. But at that time, what we knew and what we acted upon was what we had.
HASTERT: You know, it's interesting: Kirk Fordham also said just about three or four days ago that he worked for this guy for 10 years and he never did anything wrong. So there's a little bit of difference in the testimony or what he said.
HASTERT: I'm going to run, and presumably win, in this election. And when we do, I expect to run for leader -- for speaker. And, you know, I think everybody else will too. But our members ultimately make that decision.
HASTERT: Well, ultimately, any time that a person has to, as a leader, be on the hot seat and he is a detriment to the party, you know, there ought to be a change. I became speaker in a situation like that.
I don't think that's the case. I said I haven't done anything wrong, obviously. And we need to come back.
HASTERT: What we need to do is start talking about the issues.
We have a great economy. It's because of Republican tax cuts and Republican handling of the economy, of holding the line on spending.
We have addressed the war on terror. We've done that continually over the last five years, and today we have a pretty safe America.
And, you know, a lot of people wanted us to address the issue about the border, and we did exactly that. And, you know, last Friday, we culminated in appropriations that did fix the border.
So, you know, we have a good story to tell.
Our friends on the other side of the aisle really don't have a story to tell. And maybe they're resolving to another way to -- to -- another political tactic.
Thank you very much.
Oct 05, 2006 14:52 ET .EOF
Source: CQ Transcriptions © 2006, Congressional Quarterly Inc., All Rights Reserved