For all the accusations, criminal charges and nonstop TV coverage, there has been one constant in the Denny Hastert scandal: The former Speaker’s silence.
When the initial indictment dropped, Hastert was accused of lying to the FBI about evading bank laws by illegally withdrawing huge amounts of cash from his accounts. But it was the background allegations that really exploded.
Hastert was accused of paying hush money to someone known only as “Individual A.” Authorities say Hastert had committed “pastmisconduct” against that person.
Sources confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that the misconduct Hastert was trying to hide with the cash payments involved a student. At the time, Hastert was a coach and teacher at Yorkville High School. Sources also confirmed that Individual A wasn’t the only alleged victim.
On Friday, the other shoe dropped.
In an interview with ABC, Jolene Burdge said her brother Steve Reinboldtwas sexually abused by Hastert for years when he was a teen.
Hastert was a coach at Yorkville between 1965 and 1981. Reinboldt revealed his secret to his sister years later, when Burdge asked her brother about his first same-sex experience.
“He just looked at me and said: It was Denny Hastert,” Burdge in an interview with ABC. She asked her brother why he never told anyone. “Who is ever going to believe me. In this town, who is ever going to believe me?”
Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995.
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It was then that Hastert was in line at the funeral and Burdge said she couldn’t take it anymore. She followed him out to his car and confronted Hastert, she said.
“‘I want you to know your secret didn’t die in there with my brother. And I want you to remember that I’m out here and that I know,’ ” Burdge said she told him. “He just stood there and he did not say a word.”
Hastert got in his car and drove away.
Hastert’s silence “said everything,” she said.
No, a man accused of agreeing to pay $3.5 million to keep a dark secret from his past won’t easily step up to a microphone or pen an apology to the world.
But Hastert has had a few weeks to digest the accusations — he started getting calls from reporters about this case before the indictment was made public. He was interviewed by the FBI last year.
What’s amazing about this high-profile case is that no one stepped forward on his behalf.
Not Hastert. No family member. No former colleague. No former spokesman.
And no attorney.
In fact, as of Friday, it was still a mystery who represented Hastert.
But the moment is nearing when he must face the public.
He is to be arraigned in federal court — a requirement by law that a person indicted by a grand jury face a judge and plead to his case.
That is supposed to happen Tuesday.
Most defendants, even those who intend to cooperate with the government’s case, plead not guilty at this point. That’s to be expected.
But that could be just the beginning.
If the accusations related to minors are true, Hastert has options: Come clean and offer a mea culpa for the pain and denials over decades that he’s misrepresented himself to the public.
That could stop the drip, drip, drip of the news.
It may help any victims begin to heal.
Or the former U.S. House speaker could continue to say nothing.
But as Burdge put it, sometimes silence “says everything.”