Hastert was among the supporters of federal legislation backing and funding a national amber alert system and made the comment in that context after Smart’s release.
Hastert, speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007, was indicted last week for alleged violations of banking laws. The indictment, without getting specific, alleged the violations occurred as Hastert was trying to obtain cash to pay millions of dollars to an unnamed person to cover up “past misconduct.”
Federal law enforcement officials later told the Washington Post and other news outlets that the indictment was triggered by an effort Hastert made to hide payments of hush money to a male student he allegedly sexually molested decades ago when he taught and coached wrestling at Yorkville High School in Illinois.
Hastert’s comment about child molesters came in a press release after Elizabeth Smart’s escape.
“It is important to have a national notification system to help safely recover children kidnapped by child predators,” it said. “But it is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives, and to help law enforcement with the tools they need to get the job done.”
While in the House of Representatives, Hastert was also a booster of the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006.
“At home, we put the security of our children first and Republicans are doing just that in our nation’s House,” he said in a press release. “We’ve all seen the disturbing headlines about sex offenders and crimes against children. These crimes cannot persist. Protecting our children from Internet predators and child exploitation enterprises are just as high a priority as securing our border from terrorists.
“House Republicans understand that a safer America involves providing safety measures on all fronts. That’s why today we passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.”
In his official congressional biography in 2005, available via Lexis, Hastert noted that “prior to Congress, during the 1980s, Hastert served three terms in the Illinois General Assembly, where he spearheaded legislation on child abuse prevention,” among other things.
That was an apparent reference to his being co-chair of a commission on preventing child abuse, which issued a report called “The Child Victim: Child Abuse in the Family and Society,” as Buzzfeed reported.
Hastert has made no public comments about his indictment or about reports of his alleged “misconduct” in Illinois.