Welch calls for Hastert resignation

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(Host) Democratic U.S. House candidate Peter Welch is calling for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign.

Welch says Hastert failed to investigate allegations of improper conduct between a Republican House member and a 16-year-old congressional page.

Republican U.S. House candidate Martha Rainville says the call for Hastert’s resignation is premature.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The case involves a Florida congressman who allegedly sent sexually suggestive emails to a number of congressional pages over the past 3 years.

Rep. Mark Foley resigned last week and entered a clinic to deal with what his aides call
“an abuse of alcohol” and mental health issues.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert says he’s known about the contents of some of the emails for a number of months but that he learned about the most damaging messages only last week.

The Washington Times, a paper known for its conservative editorial views, has called for Hastert to resign his post because “either he was grossly negligent for not taking red flags into account and ordering a swift investigation or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that the scandal would simply blow away.”

Democratic House candidate Peter Welch agrees:

(Welch) “Speaker Hastert should resign along with his entire leadership team they treated this as a political problem rather than a very serious law enforcement issue that it is this is every parent’s worst nightmare and it is not something that should be treated as a political issue.”

(Kinzel) Republican House candidate Martha Rainville says she’s very concerned about the scandal but she thinks it’s premature for Hastert to resign at this time. She says the first step is a thorough investigation by the F.B.I.:

(Rainville) “We need to know that the people charged with the leadership position and charged with representing us are doing their job and doing it well. There’s an investigation ongoing. We need to give it a few weeks we need to get the hard cold facts and then demand responsibility and accountability.”

Rainville believes some of the people calling for Hastert’s immediate resignation are politically motivated.

(Rainville) “I think that has to be something that we’re aware of it is an election season and any incident that comes up seems to prompt political responses and again it gets back to what I’ve talked about before and that an atmosphere of finger pointing and blaming others and sometimes you just have to wait to get the truth.”

(Kinzel) That’s a charge that Welch strongly denies:

(Welch) “The evidence is pouring in. It’s one of two things, either a gross dereliction of duty for failing to follow up when he got the information or it’s a cover up. It’s one of the two and in either case Speaker Hastert should resign.”

(Kinzel) Rainville says the scandal demonstrates the need for Congress to appoint a non partisan ethics committee that can investigate these kinds of cases in the future.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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