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Transcript: Reps. Kingston, Meehan on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published October 09, 2006 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the Oct. 8, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Well, joining us now to discuss what happens next in the Mark Foley page scandal, we welcome two influential members of Congress: Jack Kingston, vice chair of a Republican conference, who comes to us from his home state of Georgia; and Democrat Marty Meehan, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, who's in his home state of Massachusetts.
Gentlemen, there are new allegations, now from multiple sources, that Speaker Hastert's office was notified about Foley's inappropriate contact with male pages back in 2003. That's two years earlier than the speaker says his office knew about it.
Congressman Kingston, does this change at all your support for Foley and your belief that the House Republican leadership did all it reasonably could to stop him?
REP. JACK KINGSTON (R-GA.): Chris, I think that, number one, I do support Denny Hastert. I think he stepped up to the plate. He said this week, "The buck stops here, I'm the guy in charge."
He called the Ethics Committee back from the campaign trail, back from their town meetings and so forth and said, "Get back to Washington. Look into this. See who else may have been involved, who may have known about it." He asked the Department of Justice and the FBI to start investigating. And he set up a toll-free number for pages if they know anything or they had any concerns or their parents. And he asked Louis Freeh to look over the page program.
So I think he's taken some definitive steps to get to the bottom of this and have a thorough investigation.
WALLACE: Congressman Meehan, let's go over — and it's a little complicated — this new allegation. You've got a fellow named Kirk Fordham. He was Foley's chief of staff back in 2003. And he says that he alerted Hastert's office back then about Foley's contact, his inappropriate behavior with these pages. Now, Hastert's then-chief of staff, Scott Palmer, flatly denies this, but now you've got another congressional aide saying, yes, in fact, Hastert's office was alerted to all this back in 2003.
Congressman Meehan, what are the implications in all this?
REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D-MASS.): Well, there are all kinds of gaps and inconsistencies in what the speaker has had to say and, frankly, other people within the Republican leadership. I think it illustrates the need to have a comprehensive investigation and to have people come in and, under oath, find out who knew what and when did they know it.
What is clear is that the leadership did not do a very good job of protecting these 15- and 16-year-old pages from what appears to be a predatory kind of behavior. And frankly I think all of us are pretty shocked by it.
WALLACE: Congressman Kingston, if — and I want to repeat "if" — it does turn out that the speaker's office was alerted to Foley's behavior back in 2003 and failed to stop him, isn't that devastating?
KINGSTON: Well, I think that if there was a staffer or two who decided to maybe protect Mark Foley for reasons unknown, I think the speaker would do to them what basically he did to Mark Foley, which was, "Get out or be fired," because, you know, the threat to Mark Foley, if he stayed around, he would have been expelled.
But you've got to ask yourself, what would the speaker do that for? The speaker's job is to protect the majority. We know that this race has been a 15-seat race to keep the majority. Why would the speaker protect one member in a safe Republican seat? He would not try to risk the majority for that. There would be no reason for him to have that motivation.
WALLACE: Congressman Meehan?
MEEHAN: I think the reason why he did it is because he didn't want to risk his majority. The fact is, the Foley seat was a Republican seat.
The evidence is pretty clear. If somebody goes to your chief of staff and says, "We have a problem with a member of Congress who seems to be going after some of these pages; he has inappropriate contact with them," it's just not credible to believe that that chief of staff or the speaker of the House — the chief of staff, by the way, who's one of the most powerful figures in Washington, didn't talk to the speaker of the House about it.
It's just not credible, any more than it's credible when the majority leader said he had had a conversation with the speaker and the speaker didn't recall having a conversation about Mark Foley with inappropriate contact with pages. That isn't credible either. Denny Hastert is a decent person, but the problem here in this case is that good people do bad things when they're trying to protect their own political power.
WALLACE: Congressman Meehan...
KINGSTON: But, Marty, remember...
WALLACE: If I may, Congressman Kingston, let me switch this a little bit to Congressman Meehan now.
You have been calling for an independent investigation. The fact is, as Congressman Kingston mentions, the House Ethics Committee, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, was called back to begin its meetings. It said it's going to begin its investigation. It's issued dozens of subpoenas. It says it's going to take weeks, not months, to complete its investigation. Why not let them do their job?
MEEHAN: Well, they should do their job. But what my legislation that I submitted in February calls for is an independent, professional staff that would report to the Ethics Committee. In other words, we need to make sure this is nonpartisan and professional.
The notion that they can predict it's going to last three weeks — they don't have a clue as to how many people they need to interview, how many members of Congress they should interview, how many pages need to be interviewed. We've seen this fallout in the media, and it appears that there is a pattern of behavior here.
In addition to that, I'm concerned — the FBI is conducting an investigation; they'll do a thorough job. But in some instances, federal laws may not have been broken, but what clearly is broken is the way that the leadership in Congress dealt with this scandal. And we have to make sure that we have procedures in effect so that this can never happen again.
WALLACE: Congressman Kingston, given all the public doubts about Congress now — frankly, you guys aren't — and I'm talking generically about Congress — you don't stand very highly in the polls — shouldn't there be some independent component to the House investigation? Should the House really be investigating itself?
KINGSTON: I think, number one, when the speaker has called on the Department of Justice and the FBI, you do have outside counsel looking into this.
Number two, when the Ethics Committee is evenly split, Democrat and Republican; number three, when he's asked for Louis Freeh, the former head of the FBI, to look into this — and which Nancy Pelosi has not joined the call, nor has Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel and other Democrat officers volunteered to help. They haven't said that they will go under oath. There is evidence ...
WALLACE: What do they have — let me ask you about that, Congressman Kingston. What did Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel — they, of course, are two Democratic leaders — what do they have to go under oath about?
KINGSTON: Well, Chris, what I don't understand is, where have these e-mails been for three years? Are we saying that a 15-year-old child would've sat on e-mails that were XXX-rated for three years and suddenly spring them out right on the eve of an election? That's just a little bit too suspicious, even for Washington, D.C.
We do know that George Soros, a huge Democrat backer, has a group called CREW. It's a 527 partisan group. They apparently had the e-mails as late as this April and did not do anything about it. And that's according to the FBI, as reported in one statement.
But, again, if Denny Hastert knew this guy was sexually deviant, he would have tossed him overboard a year ago, because it is a safe Republican seat. It's a generic Republican seat. Anybody with a Republican jersey could have won. All we would have had to do is say, "Mark, you're doing some bad stuff. You've got to move on." We would not have to spend a nickel to protect that seat.
WALLACE: Congress Kingston, I want to follow up on this. And you have suggested this and so has Speaker Hastert, that this was a Democratic dirty trick to spring this in October.
Even if — and there doesn't seem to be any hard evidence, but even if the Democrats are behind it, isn't it better to expose Foley rather than keep him in office where he's going to be able to continue to prey on young teenagers?
KINGSTON: Well, you know, you would think that the call to protect children would come higher than partisan politics, but Washington being Washington, why did it suddenly get paraded out on Sept. 29 and during the election when, in the state of Florida, you cannot take Mark Foley's name off the ballot? It's already passed that period. We could put in another candidate, but people still have to vote for Mark Foley. Now, isn't that a clever coincidence?
You know, what we need is Rahm Emanuel, we need Nancy Pelosi just to cooperate in the investigation. Because somebody has been sitting on these e-mails for three years, and, in the name of child protection, we should know who would be willing to put politics above protecting children.
WALLACE: Congress Meehan, I want to ask you about something, but I've got to let you have an opportunity to respond.
MEEHAN: Yes, because if there's any evidence that you need that the values in Washington have turned upside-down, you could just hear what Jack had to say. Only in Washington, D.C., can you take a group of people in charge of the House and basically have evidence that they've been looking the other way while a predator has been predating and going after 15- and 16-year-old pages, can they somehow turn that into a-have the audacity to turn that into a political attack against Democrats, saying, "Well, they must have known about it so somehow they're responsible."
If there's a professional investigation, anyone who has any information obviously will be called in to testify under oath. But the fact of the matter is and what the facts suggest here is, as soon as the speaker found out about it, rather than going to the committee that was established to overlook the pages, they went to one member of the committee, one Republican member. They didn't let the Democrat on the committee know about it, because they wanted to keep it secret.
So the evidence is overwhelming here.
WALLACE: Wait, wait, Congressman Meehan, I want to follow up with you. A former colleague of yours, a Massachusetts congressman who now has passed away, Gerry Studds, was in fact censured by the House in 1983 for not sending messages to male pages but for having sex with a 17-year-old.
Don't Democrats, because the Democrats were in power then, have to answer for the fact that they left Gerry Studds in power, they didn't expel him?
MEEHAN: Well, first of all, there was Republican Congressman Crane and Congressman Studds who were involved in activities. Frankly, when the activities took place in the Studds case, I was a sophomore in high school. But, in any event, that doesn't excuse what's happened here.
After that scandal, which involved one Republican and one Democrat, the House decided to set up a committee to oversee pages. That was the response at that time — and again, it was a long time before I was in the Congress — they set this up.
Now, this panel that was set up had Republicans and Democrats on it. And, in this instance, the Republican leadership, when they knew about this e-mail, didn't tell the Democratic member because they wanted to keep it secret.
So the question here is not how many Democrats and Republicans in the past were guilty of doing something with pages. The question is, how do we keep these kids safe when they go to Washington, D.C.?
WALLACE: Congressman ...
MEEHAN: And the Republican leadership didn't do anything.
WALLACE: Congressman Meehan, we've got about 30 seconds left. Just one last question. This did happen on the Democrats' watch. You were in the majority. You were ...
MEEHAN: There's no ...
WALLACE: If I may just finish. You were in high school, but the Democrats were in control of Congress. And yet nobody at the time — I was here, I remember — nobody was calling for Tip O'Neill to step down, the then-Democratic speaker of the House.
MEEHAN: There was no evidence that Tip O'Neill knew anything about what Congressman Crane was doing, the Republican, or Congressman Studds, the Democrat. There was never any evidence that the leadership in the Congress knew.
KINGSTON: There's no evidence that Denny Hastert knew anything about Foley. There's absolutely no ...
MEEHAN: Yes, there is. In 2002 ...
KINGSTON: No, there's not. The only e-mails ...
MEEHAN: Jack ...
KINGSTON: ... that were exchanged were these weird, friendly e- mails, which the parents said, "We thank you for investigating that. In the name of our son's privacy, don't go any further. We are satisfied." And those were all friendly e-mails. No one knew about the X-rated stuff. As I said, if Denny Hastert or anybody in the Republican ranks knew about it, we would have gotten rid of the guy, which Denny did immediately last ...
MEEHAN: Jack, these e-mails ...
KINGSTON: ... when he did find out.
MEEHAN: ... they're not friendly e-mails. They're predatory e- mails. And anyone who's ever been involved in a child abuse case...
WALLACE: Gentlemen, we'll set up a phone line for you to continue this conversation, but we're going to have to end it here.
KINGSTON: We'll look forward to it.
WALLACE: Congressman Kingston, Congressman Meehan, we want to thank you both so much for sharing your Sunday with us.
MEEHAN: Thank you.