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Hastert Accused of Sexual Abuse

And here I assumed that Denny Hastert was in trouble for some kind of boring financial shenanigans. Er, no:

J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a man to not say publicly that Mr. Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago, according to two people briefed on the evidence uncovered in an F.B.I. investigation into the payments.

Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced the indictment of Mr. Hastert on allegations that he made cash withdrawals designed to hide those payments and for lying to federal authorities about the purpose of the withdrawals.

The man – who was not identified in court papers — told the F.B.I. that he had been inappropriately touched by Mr. Hastert when Mr. Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, the two people said on Friday. The people briefed on the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a federal investigation.

Hastert allegedly agreed to pay this guy $3.5 million to stay quiet. That must have been quite some touching. Does an innocent man agree to bay $3.5 million to a liar to keep quiet? Maybe so, but it looks very bad for Hastert.

The alleged abuse happened decades ago. What on earth must this guy have on Hastert? Hard evidence of the crime? Because if it was just his word against a beloved and respected former wrestling coach who went on to become one of the most powerful politicians in America, about acts that supposedly took place ages ago, I think nobody would have believed the accuser. Certainly it wouldn’t have held up in court.

My opinion is subject to change once we know more about the alleged abuse, but a lot of sympathy I would otherwise have had for the purported victim has gone out the window with his decision to blackmail Hastert.

Jeez, Denny Hastert. America’s most boring, decent, Midwestern small town politician. The Mr. Clean picked by the House GOP after Bob Livingston dropped out because of a sex scandal. The secrets people keep…

UPDATE:Oh boy:

As a federal legislator, Hastert voted regularly against bills to empower gay people. In Congress from 1997 to 2007, Hastert voted for the so-called “Marriage Protection Act,” and in favor of a constitutional amendment to “establish that marriage shall consist of one man and one woman.” The year he stepped down, Hastert voted no on the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” a bill to prohibit companies from discriminating against employees “on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Noting Hastert’s “deeply conservative” policy positions back in 1998, the Associated Press reported the “National Right to Life Committee, the Christian Coalition, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Rifle Association all gave his voting record perfect scores of 100.”

Hastert resigned as speaker of the House following allegations that he failed to reportformer Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) for inappropriate relationships with boys employed as pages at the U.S. Capitol.

At a Christian Coalition meeting in 2004, Hastert told the audience that Republicans would push for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as solely between one man and one woman. He said the amendment would send a “strong message to liberal activist judges.”

“We will not allow them to put our children’s future at risk because of their agenda for political correctness,” Hastert added. He also said House Republicans had added language to a budget bill that would increase funding for abstinence sex education. “More kids need to be taught to just say no, that doesn’t just apply to drugs, it also applies to sex before marriage,” Hastert remarked.

Now, as a matter of logic, this does not make Hastert a hypocrite. He could have voted the way he did believing his own prior acts (if he did those things) were wicked. But the optics are beyond terrible.

UPDATE.2:There’s a second accuser now, someone who was not paid off by Hastert. Thanks to reader LemmysWart for the update.

This is just ducky, innit? The former Republican Speaker of the House, a small-town Midwestern guy who was esteemed for his dull decency, is now accused of having sexually molested youngsters when he was a teacher and wrestling coach. If I were a Republican, I would dread having to defend the traditionalist position. Again, the fact that many Catholic bishops for decades covered up clerical sex abuse does not make the Church’s teaching wrong, but it does devastate their credibility defending that teaching in the public square. Even though there is a solid case to be made for the traditional teaching, most Republican politicians struggle to make it now. Now Hastert will be thrown in their face, and they won’t have any idea what to say. Thanks, Denny.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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