House Speaker Hastert In a Hot Spot

On the defensive, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., took to friendly conservative airwaves -- Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Sean Hannity -- to defend himself amidst criticism that his office hadn't done enough after being notified in 2005 of some of the inappropriate e-mails former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., had sent to an underage former congressional page.

On "The Rush Limbaugh Show," Hastert painted this uproar as a liberal conspiracy to win back the House of Representatives.

"If they get to me, it looks like they could affect our election as well," Hastert said.

Hastert went on to tell Limbaugh's listeners -- and other audiences -- that he and the GOP leadership had facilitated Foley's resignation.

"We took care of Mr. Foley," Hastert said. "We found out about it, asked him to resign. He did resign. He's gone."

That wasn't true.

Foley resigned before anyone in leadership could speak to him.

Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean later told ABC News that the speaker had "misspoke" because he had been under the mistaken impression that someone in leadership had advised Foley to resign.

From One Embattled Republican to Another

Hastert had had a grueling day.

On Tuesday, the conservative Washington Times newspaper called for Hastert's resignation, saying he was either "grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation … or he deliberately looked the other way."

Hastert's own lieutenants have clearly distanced themselves from how their boss handled the Foley e-mails.

"I did what most people would do in a workplace," Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee told reporters Monday night back in his upstate New York district, where he is in a tough re-election contest. "I heard something, I took it to my supervisor. … I took it to the speaker of the House."

Reynolds will be joined today by first lady Laura Bush at a fundraiser. Reynolds so far has not returned a Foley contribution of $100,000 to his campaign.

Echoing Reynold's defense, House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, told a Cincinnati radio station today that "I believe I talked to the speaker and he told me it had been taken care of. And my position is it's in his corner, it's his responsibility."

Speaking publicly for the first time about the Foley scandal, President Bush said he was dismayed, shocked and disgusted by Foley's behavior, but he obviously felt the need to express "full support" for Hastert as well.

"I know Denny Hastert," Bush said. "I meet with him a lot. He's a father, teacher, coach. He cares about the children of this country."

'If We Lose': Hastert's Warning

While some rallied around the speaker, ABC News asked several conservative Republican congressmen about their position on whether Hastert should stay on, and was told they wanted to wait a couple days and see how the story played out before making a decision.

Hastert clearly has some ardent supporters on the airwaves, such as Limbaugh who alleged "what the Democrats are doing here in some sort of cooperation with some in the media is to suppress conservative turnout."

Hastert told Limbaugh that the House leadership was working hard to make the page program safer, "but the fact is, we hit the high time of Wall Street today. The economy is good because we've done the right things on holding taxes down, on holding litigation down, holding regulation down."

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