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Transcript: Tom DeLay Speaks Out

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 4, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

BRIT HUME, HOST: From Harry Reid to Nancy Pelosi to Howard Dean, the Democrats were on message today. The Tom DeLay departure, they said, does not end the "culture of corruption," which they say he epitomized.

And what does the congressman himself say about that?

Well, he's right here. Let's ask him.

Click into the video tab to the right watch the inverview.

Welcome, Congressman.

What do you say about that?

REP. TOM DELAY, R-TEXAS: I don't think they understand it.

There is no cultural corruption except theirs, lying about me, trying to work with an outrageous district attorney and being indicted on laws that don't...

HUME: You're speaking of Ronnie Earle.

DELAY: Yes.

Being indicted on laws that don't exist. They themselves announced this whole politics of personal destruction, criminalizing politics. That I think is a culture of corruption.

HUME: Let me ask you about your calculus in doing this, because it wasn't but a few weeks ago that you had won your primary quite handily, more handily than a lot of people thought.

DELAY: Yes.

HUME: And you were saying you were in this to the finish. What changed?

DELAY: Well, what changed is I just got to thinking about what was ahead of me -- and I'm a realist -- and I've been around a while. I know how to evaluate a campaign. And the more I looked at it, the more I felt like that this was going to be a nasty campaign for a lot of money, and my district didn't deserve it. They deserve a Republican.

By me stepping aside because the race has become a referendum on me, not on the issues, and now the liberal Democrat can't win because a good, strong Republican will win this seat. It's a good, strong Republican seat.

HUME: The sense here in Washington was that the Ronnie Earle charges against you might well fail and that he didn't have all that much credibility in Texas.

DELAY: Right.

HUME: But that the scandal involving the lobbyists and your former associate Jack Abramoff, and now the charges against one of your former aides and possibly against a second, was a different matter entirely.

Was that how you read it as well in terms of the politics of it?

DELAY: Well, the Abramoff stuff, I was being tarred with the brush of guilty by association.

I have nothing to do with the Abramoff affair. I've done nothing wrong. It's disappointing, and I'm very disappointed in what went on, but it had nothing to do with me.

The Department of Justice told my lawyers I'm not a target of the investigations. I haven't talked to any investigator. I mean, it has nothing to do with me, and time will show that.

This stuff piles up and it plays its role and it has hurt my ability to be re-elected.

HUME: You've spent a long time accumulating the apparent authority and influence you that you had in the House of Representatives. The president himself had said all along that he hoped that you would return as leader. Obviously, that's not to be. And now you leave the House altogether.

What's ahead for you? How do you feel about this?

DELAY: Well, I'm kind of excited about it. I think I can do more for the conservative movement and more for the Republican majority outside the House than being...

HUME: How?

DELAY: Well, I do have talents. I can take those talents and that experience and speak nationally about the conservative movement, what our agenda is. I've shown that I can help elect Republicans. I can work with people.

In this decision-making process, it was obvious to me that I still enjoy great support with the conservative organizations, conservative leaders -- great support with our members in the House of Representatives. They respect me for what I've been able to accomplish, and I can take that and do some pretty good things. And the Democrats know it.

HUME: I want to ask you about a particular picture of you which was in keeping with a demeanor that you showed throughout this. This was the picture that was made of you -- the mugshot that was made of you -- at the time of the Ronnie Earle charges. And there you are with this big grin on your face.

What's the story behind that decision to have that photo come out that way? What were you thinking?

DELAY: That's an answer to a prayer.

HUME: Tell me.

DELAY: Well, right before this humiliating process -- I don't know if you've ever been booked; it's very humiliating; you're not inclined to smile -- but it just hit me that I needed to smile.

And so right before they were to take that one take...

HUME: Why did you need to smile, in your view?

DELAY: I don't know. It just came up -- I needed to smile. And right before they took that -- and they only take one take -- I said a little prayer: Lord, let them see Jesus in me.

And when I smiled on my side...

HUME: How did it feel?

DELAY: I felt like it was the fakest smile I had ever done. But through the camera, you can see there was a glow in it.

HUME: And what was the net effect of it, in your judgment?

DELAY: It really disappointed the Democrats. They had already spent a lot of money on T-shirts and coffee mugs, and they were going to raise a lot of money with my mugshot -- and they couldn't use it.

Just like the people that did that movie while I was being investigated by Ronnie Earle -- in violation of a grand jury process in Texas -- that movie, today, is worthless.

HUME: Because you're gone, you mean?

DELAY: Because I'm gone. They can't raise money with it.

HUME: Let me just take you back, if I can, to the activities of a couple of your former aides. Do you feel some sense of responsibility that they took the turn that they took?

DELAY: Yes. Obviously, they worked for me. When you're in a leadership office, it's a whirlwind every day. And you hire people and trust them because you've given them great responsibility to make certain decisions.

And yes, it's very disappointing that that trust was misused. And obviously he pled guilty to it. But I also know that I have well over hundreds of good, strong people working for me and have done a great job because I had the best staff on the Hill.

HUME: Congressman, thank you. Glad to have you.

DELAY: Sure.

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