In deflecting blame from House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) for apparently failing to properly address inappropriate emails allegedly sent by former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to an underage male congressional page, Bill Kristol said that "the voters in Florida" shared the blame for what Fox News host John Gibson called "the exposure that Republicans now have" due to the scandal, adding, "Maybe they should have known better."
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On the October 3 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, Fox News political analyst and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol deflected blame from House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) for apparently failing to properly address inappropriate emails allegedly sent by former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to an underage male congressional page when he first leaned of them. But when asked by Gibson who is responsible for "the exposure that Republicans now have" due to the scandal, "if not Hastert," Kristol replied: "Foley is responsible for it, and the voters in Florida, I guess, who elected him. Maybe they should have known better." Earlier in the segment, Kristol said it "is a kind of McCarthyism" to "tar the whole Republican Party because one Republican congressman behaved badly."
Regarding Hastert's actions after learning of Foley's emails, Kristol also claimed: "I don't really know what he could have done," adding that "[t]he speaker seems to have done what he could have done given what knowledge he had at the time. No one has really proven or even plausibly suggested what he should have done that he didn't do." But as Media Matters for America recently noted, Hastert's office appeared to have made no effort to determine the actual content of the emails -- including one in which Foley allegedly wrote of an underage male page: "[H]es [sic] in really great shape."
From the October 3 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:
GIBSON: With me now is Fox News political analyst Bill Kristol, who is the editor of The Weekly Standard. He actually spoke to Dennis Hastert just a short time ago. Bill, what does Dennis Hastert say about this call for him to step down?
KRISTOL: Well, first, he's really repulsed, I think, by Foley's behavior. You know, Denny Hastert was a high school teacher and a high school coach, and this kind of attempt to exploit young boys, I mean, it's just -- he seems really sickened by it. He's angry at Foley for betraying his trust, his colleagues' trust, the voters of Florida's trust, these pages' trusts. He's also angry at the Democrats for trying to make this a big political issue to divert attention from the real issues that should be debated in this congressional election, and I think he's disappointed in some of these few conservatives who, I think, foolishly have somehow lashed out at Denny Hastert.
The speaker seems to have done what he could have done, given what knowledge he had at the time. No one has really proven or even plausibly suggested what he should have done that he didn't do, and I think he's -- he says he's going to -- he's not resigning, and he's going to try to get the debate back to the issues.
GIBSON: Bill, should he have known more?
KRISTOL: I don't really know how you could. I've thought a lot about this. You know, I edit a magazine, and God forbid, if one of my colleagues somehow -- if someone called my attention to some inappropriate email that was kind of vague, which was the only one Hastert was told about several months ago, you might warn the guy, "Hey, be careful." I don't know that you can -- of course, Foley doesn't work for Hastert, so he couldn't fire him. I don't really know what he could have done. And suddenly, these instant messages show up, and it's a whole different story and they told Foley, "Quit or be expelled from the House," and he quit right away.
Look, he quit from the House. Gerry Studds, whose had sexual relations with an underage page, was permitted to remain in the House of Representatives, remained a member of the Democratic Caucus, was re-elected six times from his district in Massachusetts. The idea that Hastert -- and no one called for [former House Speaker Thomas] "Tip" O'Neill [D-MA] to resign that I know of in 1983, '84 when he was speaker of the House and Gerry Studds committed this terrible behavior.
So I think it's a little ridiculous, the attack on Hastert, and I think Hastert wants to fight back, and I think a lot of Republicans now are going to say, look, this was terrible. It's totally unacceptable. Foley is a repulsive creep, but let's not tar the whole Republican Party because one Republican congressman behaved badly. I mean, that really is a kind of McCarthyism.
GIBSON: But, Bill, there -- you know, aside from what Hastert didn't know about Foley and the whole issue of protecting children, there's the exposure that Republicans now have from this scandal, and who is responsible for that, if not Hastert?
KRISTOL: Well, Foley is responsible for it, and the voters in Florida, I guess, who elected him. Maybe they should have known better. But, of course, no one knows. These things happen. People turn out to be creeps, and they conceal it pretty well, and then they turn out to be creeps and you act against them.