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AP: Jolene Burdge in 2006 provided ‘no information’ useful for Hastert story

ABC News this morning dropped a bombshell scoop regarding the indictment of former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert, releasing an interview in which Jolene Burdge alleges that her late brother, Steve Reinboldt, was abused by Hastert when he worked as a wresting coach and teacher at Yorkville High School in Illinois. Hastert last week was indicted for violating banking rules in an alleged attempt to pay a person to conceal “misconduct” in his past. News outlets have reported that the misconduct was sexual.

The media angle relates to time: ABC News knew of Burdge’s allegations starting in 2006, but couldn’t air a report on them because Burdge wouldn’t speaking on the record at the time. “She contacted us and other members of the news media about nine years ago off the record,” said ABC News’s Brian Ross on this morning’s “Good Morning America.”

The Associated Press was among the outlets working the Burdge-Reinboldt-Hastert story back in 2006. But it couldn’t get a foothold. Here’s a statement AP spokesman Paul Colford e-mailed the Erik Wemple Blog on what happened:

As a scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley was unfolding in 2006, a person with no firsthand knowledge pointed The Associated Press to Jolene Burdge. On the phone and by email she repeatedly declined to talk about Dennis Hastert and provided no information that would have allowed AP to pursue a story, despite AP’s further efforts to do so at the time.

As both the AP and ABC News have now reported, Burdge was interviewed by the FBI in mid-May. “That’s when I just kind of lost it and said, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe — I never thought I was going to get this phone call. … I thought it was over,’” she said. Then the indictment came down. “There are no words to describe what it felt like, to, you, know, it’s just like Stevie, we’ve done it. It’s gonna happen, we got him,” she told ABC News.

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