Hastert indictment spotlights Republican hypocrisy


— The indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the disclosure that he may have been sexually involved with at least two boys while serving as a high school football and wrestling coach in Illinois exposes the hypocrisy of the self-appointed morality police.


George E. Curry

It turns out that Hastert is the latest in a long line of “family values” spouting Republicans who led the charge to successfully impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.

However, while publicly vilifying Clinton, key Republican leaders had participated in or were continuing extramarital affairs with women or, like Hastert, boys.

The impeachment of Clinton was presided over by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois.

“Ironically, Hyde turned out to have been guilty of his own extramarital indiscretions. In a September 1998 article, Salon.com reported that Hyde had carried on an affair with a married woman named Cherie Snodgrass during the 1960s, a story the Congressman later acknowledged was true,” Time magazine reported.

Hastert’s ascension to power in the House began with the resignation of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)

As leader of the 1994 Republican Revolution that led to a GOP House majority for the first time in four decades, Gingrich resigned in 1998 as his party was preparing to dump him after the mid-term election reduced the number of GOP seats by five, giving the party a slim 223-211 edge over Democrats.

In a story headlined, “Gingrich Admits to Affair During Clinton Impeachment,” ABC News’ Jake Tapper wrote, “Setting the stage for his entry into the presidential race, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., gave a radio interview … in which Gingrich for the first time publicly acknowledged cheating on his first and second wives.”

Quoting Gingrich, the story continued, “‘I was married very young and had my first daughter when I was very young, in fact at the end of my freshman year in college,’” he said of his first marriage to Jackie Battley, his former high school geometry teacher. “‘And after a period of time, about 18 years, things just didn’t work out.’”

“Gingrich married his second wife, Marianne Ginther, months after he divorced Battley in 1981. According to Battley, Gingrich discussed divorce terms with her while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.”

The story said, “Gingrich also acknowledged cheating on Ginther while leading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton for allegations of perjury involving the Paula Jones sexual harassment civil case and the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.”

Finally, the story noted, “Gingrich divorced Ginther in 2000 and soon married his third wife, Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide who was in her 20s when she and Gingrich began their affair.”

Rep. Robert L. Livingston (R-La.) had been elected to succeed Gingrich as House Speaker at the beginning of the January 1999 session, but he abruptly resigned before taking office.

In October, Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine and a leading pornographer, placed a full-page ad in the Washington Post offering up to $1 million to anyone who could prove they had “an adulterous sexual encounter with a current member of the United States Congress or a high-ranking government official.”

On Dec. 18, 1998, Flynt announced that he had evidence of four extramarital affairs by Livingston. The next day, Livingston resigned, saying that he had “strayed from my marriage.”

When beleaguered Republicans were looking for someone with an unblemished record to coalesce around, they quickly turned to Dennis Hastert. He served as Speaker from 1999 to 2007.

The New Yorker magazine observed, “Hastert lost the job when he mishandled the scandal that erupted when Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, was discovered to have sent sexual messages to teen-age male congressional pages.”

Now, we may finally know why Hastert was reluctant to move against Foley.

Hastert was indicted and charged with violating U.S. banking laws and making false statements to the FBI. According to the 7-page indictment, Hastert had agreed to pay $3.5 million in 2010 to “compensate and conceal” Hastert’s “prior misconduct.”

CBS News reported that “the FBI became aware of as many as two, maybe three, potential victims alleging sexual misconduct by the House speaker.” It also reported,

“Jolene Burdge told ABC that Hastert molested her brother, Stephen Reinboldt, all through high school. At the time, Hastert was the wrestling coach and Reinboldt was the student equipment manager at Yorkville High School in Illinois.

“…Reinboldt is not ‘Individual A’ mentioned in Hastert’s indictment. According to Burdge, Reinboldt died in 1995 at the age of 42 from AIDS. When her brother came out as gay, Burdge said he told her a secret.

“‘I asked him, ‘Steve, what was your first same-sex experience?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘It was with Dennis Hastert,’” Burdge said. “And, you know, I was stunned.”

By now, it shouldn’t be stunning that the Republican morality police are rank hypocrites.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and BlackPressUSA.com. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.