Hastert Story is Proof Both the Media and Washington Are Broken

Dennis Hastert once let me eat his dinner on the rubber chicken circuit and that dinner story rates national coverage as much as his scandal story does. The fact is Hastert’s blackmail story doesn’t rate the massive coverage it’s getting in Illinois nor in the rest of the nation. But the coverage it is getting, though, is proof that both the media and Washington are broken.

When news broke last week that former Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert was being indicted for making false statements to the FBI and for skirting financial reporting rules, the world stopped in the media and in Washington both.

Take, for instance, a headline today in The Hill that screams, “Hastert Questions Consume Capitol.” This is nearly a week after the news broke.

The Hill piece reveals a fascination with the story that beggars the imagination.

Hastert, a former congressmen from north central Illinois, had withdrawn several million dollars from several bank accounts to pay off a man he knew when he was a coach of a high school wrestling team in the days before he became a politician and went to Washington. It appears that the man was alleging sexual misconduct against coach Hastert and the former Speaker wanted the allegations to remain secret.

What Hastert did wrong–besides bowing to a blackmailer–was to skirt financial reporting laws by withdrawing large sums of money just under the federal reporting limits and then lying to the FBI when they asked him what it was for.

OK, it’s a difficult situation for Mr. Hastert, certainly. But what he did does not rise to the level of national scandal and should have rated but a mere mention somewhere in the back pages in the news as opposed to eliciting the hourly coverage it has gotten for so many days.

This story should never have removed the financial misdeeds of the Clintons from the front pages, for instance. Hastert’s woes barely deserve a mention. In the long run, this story has NO national implications. The original misconduct wasn’t indulged when Hastert was in Congress, he committed no corruption in government, and he was not divulging secrets, or enriching people for a political quid pro quo.

What Hastert did was wrong, sure. But it just isn’t a big deal violation. The story just doesn’t have any real interest to the nation.

Yet, it is crowding out coverage of stories–like the Clinton corruption–that really does have national implications.

That both the media and D.C. are so willing to get all balled up in this story shows that both have misguided priorities.

As to that dinner, here is the tale: When I was working for an Illinois GOP candidate back in 2002 I attended a rubber chicken circuit event. Denny Hastert was there to speak to the room, but he wasn’t going to stay for the dinner that was about to be served. I was standing near the podium and he looked at me and asked if I was going to get a dinner. I told him no because I was just a worker for a candidate. So, Denny insisted I eat his dinner and even made me sit at the front table with the other speakers while I ate. It was an amusing little incident and showed the Speaker’s sense of humor.

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  • pdq3

    Well, as they say, IOKIYAR. Henry Cisneros, for instance, had an affair with a consenting adult woman years before he became Secretary of HUD under Clinton, and paid long-time support for the resulting child. But during his background check, while he told the FBI about the affair, and about the payments, he understated the amounts. For those who seem to have forgotten, a special prosecutor was named, and Cisneros was eventually indicted for 18 counts of conspiracy, giving false information, and obstruction of justice.

    While he eventually reached a plea deal, he was forced from office and
    Republicans howled long and loud over this “corruption”. Cisneros’ wrongdoing pales compared to Hastert’s, but predictably, we’re supposed to let the latter pass.

    My hypocrisy meter is pegged.

    • Commander_Chico

      Seek and ye shall find: Warner wrote about Cisneros!!!

      July 9, 2007
      MSM ignores higher-placed Clinton officials’ conviction to tout Libby’s

      By Warner Todd Huston

      I keep seeing this talking point phrase in multiple MSM stories about the Libby conviction; “Libby was convicted in March, the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair roiled the Reagan administration in the 1980s.” (emphasis, mine) This is a misleading statement that makes the reader imagine that no high-ranking Presidential appointee, adviser, or member of the White House has been convicted of anything or sentenced to anything since Reagan’s era. But, at least one past official’s name should be placed above that of Libby’s. Henry Cisneros was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton. Cisneros, it should be remembered, was indicted in 1995 on 18 counts of conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of justice. Cisneros pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of lying to the FBI. Now, I’d dare say that Libby, who only worked in the office of the Vice President, was a minnow in the pond in which Cisneros swam. Cisneros was the Secretary of HUD, a presidential cabinet member, after all!

      Naturally, on his way out of the White House in 2001, Clinton pardoned Cisneros.

      Yet, here we have the MSM constantly calling Libby the “highest White House official” convicted, completely ignoring the fate of a much, much higher official with Cisneros. Of course, that this man was a member of Clinton’s cabinet pretty much explains why the MSM is conveniently forgetting the fact that Libby is a small fish in this conviction game compared to Cisneros. And, Cisneros was certainly a member of the White House having been a Clinton appointee.

      Still, this claim of Libby being “highest official” is everywhere. An MSM talking point, for sure. And a misleading one, at that.


  • bullet2

    This idiot is ridiculous. A child molester who rose to speaker of the house and who presided over the protection of Mark Foley while he was molesting pages. This is not a story?….REALLY!. The fake Clinton scandals are just that…FAKE. Who do you think you are kidding?

    • The Clinton scandals are not fake.

      • Brucehenry

        Some were, some weren’t. The Vince Foster murder story was definitely fake, as were the airstrip drug-running nonsense and much of the other stuff. The fact that he would have an affair in the White House while under investigation for the Paula Jones stuff was reckless and troubling, but never grounds for impeachment.

        • Retired military

          He was impeached for suborning perjury not for the affair.

          • Daniel Layman

            Suborning perjury – just as Hastert has done, all while covering up his own sexual abuse history, not to mention his political misdeeds.

          • jim_m

            Idiot. Hastert hasn’t paid anyone to lie under oath. Hastert paid someone hush money, which while it is immoral and should not be tolerated in a public official, is not illegal.

        • jim_m

          Really, Then why was his law license revoked? The courts did that and they did so because HE BROKE THE LAW.

          But once again, Bruce claims that if no one went to jail then no crimes ever happened.

          Go put some ice on that Bruce.

          • Brucehenry

            “Some were, some weren’t.”

            You can’t fucking read.

            Put some ice on that, dumbass.

  • Commander_Chico

    Come on, Warner. If Hastert was D, you’d be saying the media was burying the story, especially the homo aspects.

    I think the criminal charges are bullshit, but Hastert being a homo paying hush money is absolutely big news, given his history in the Clinton impeachment and the Foley scandal.

    • LiberalNightmare

      The media isnt burying this story, they’re using it to bury the clinton scandels.

  • Retired military

    Hastert was last seen in news stories prior to this year when? 1996?? Instead we are told that the clinton scandals are old news when Hillary is running for president and Hastert is running for umm the old folks home.

    • Daniel Layman

      You’ve got your timeline and dates all wrong. Hastert was in Speaker of the U. S. House up to 2006 and in office through 2007 – during lots of national scandals – and his illegal hush money payoffs for abusing a male teenager while Hastert was the teen’s coach and teacher, and lying to the FBI about them, has occurred just recently. Old news? Hardly. One should keep up before with current events before making bizarro comments excusing criminal behavior.

  • Daniel Layman

    The poor judgment of the author of this column and the Tribune in printing it is astounding. Does the Tribune believe that molestation of a student (or more than one it seems by Hastert’s indictment) in high school by his coach and teacher is “not a big deal violation” discredits any credibility this commentator might think he has. The ridiculous “Hastert gave me a rubber chicken” dinner so he must be a good guy, is wacko. Yes, it is a national scandal when the longest serving Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives, Mr. Hastert, is exposed as having abused a teenager and then lied to the FBI about it and covered it up for decades. The writer’s statement that Hastert had done nothing to enrich others while he held powerful office is demonstrably a lie – he enriched himself with land deals that made him a multi-millionaire while he pushed bills to enrich himself and his contributors while he was in Congress. The writer’s obsession with the Clintons is so very much beside the point of the Hastert lies and teen sexual abuse scandal that deserves all the scrutiny it is receiving – and much more.

  • Daniel Layman

    The main thing that, as your headline shouts, is the moral compass of the writer of this piece and of this website for publishing it.

    • Commander_Chico

      Hey, lighten up, this is ordinary here. Warner’s bullshit is an endless source of fun.

  • Will Wright

    Allegations that a former Congressional leader sexually abused an underaged boy, and maybe other boys, and paid millions to try to cover it up IS big news. PS: please try to write better, or get a professional editor who can help you.

    Will Wright
    Cranky old retired editor
    [email protected]