Transcript: Leading Conservatives Respond to Foley Scandal on 'FNS'

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: Nowhere has the Mark Foley story hit harder than among the Republicans' conservative base. We brought together some leading conservatives to talk about it: David Bossie, president of Citizens United; Laura Ingraham, host of a nationally syndicated radio show; and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Welcome, all of you, to "Fox News Sunday."

We should point out — and I want to apologize here — former Congressman Gerry Studds is alive and well.

This week, the conservative Washington Times called for the House speaker, Dennis Hastert, to resign now. Let's take a look at what the Times said in its editorial:

"Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations, or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away."

Laura, after these new reports that Hastert's office knew about Foley's behavior, perhaps as early as 2003, do you still oppose resignation?

LAURA INGRAHAM: I think what's going on here is the first few days of this were a disaster for Republicans. Boehner was pointing this way, Reynolds was pointing this way, and Hastert was going like this. And so, it looked really bad.

I think what's happening now is the Democrats are overstepping it, Chris. Hastert came forward, investigation going on, said, "Look, we probably could've done things better." He also said on my show, "If I'm a liability to the party, if it turns out that's the case, then I wouldn't want to be speaker." He said that.

So all that's happening. And I think what I found is that the base is saying, "OK, move forward. Get off the defensive. Start talking about substance, not smear. People are getting tired of this already." And I think, once again, the Democrats are overstepping it, especially given their own past.

WALLACE: David Bossie, you were one of the few conservatives out there who, right away, said Hastert must go.

DAVID BOSSIE: You're right, and I stand by those comments. I think Speaker Hastert failed miserably in a leadership test here on this particular issue. I think this is a culmination of conservative, you know, worry over the last couple of years. And I think that that is what really has transcended this issue.

Speaker Hastert did fail on this, but I, again, like Laura, think the American people want to move forward and they want to be positive. And Citizens United, we have invested heavily in conservative candidates around the country, over $300,000 directly to conservative candidates from our PAC and 527. So we are invested. We want to win. We want to keep the House and Senate. And I think it's important that we look at this as a housekeeping matter now after Nov. 7.

WALLACE: Tony Perkins, you have this week been saying — you're in the middle of this. You say that you feel it's still too early to call for Hastert's resignation, but you're very concerned about it. We have new revelations, one today from a former page saying that he actually had sex with Foley; the revelation yesterday, or corroboration yesterday, that Hastert's office may have known about this three years ago.

As you learn more details, are you growing more or less concerned about this?

TONY PERKINS: Well, I still think it's premature for resignations, because what that will do, I think, is short-circuit an investigation. People will think it's been resolved, and they'll move on.

I mean, CBS reported this week that there's a network of gay staffers that covered for Foley. Was that part of what led up to this? Was it a disservice to the Republican leadership by staffers?

I think the investigation needs to find out who knew what, what did they know, what did they not know, what did they do, what did they not do, and why.

WALLACE: Laura, you referred to one of the more striking developments this week, which was, early in the week when the scandal broke, House Republican leaders couldn't have been in more of a hurry to distance themselves from Hastert. Let's watch.


U.S. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OHIO): I believe I talked to the speaker, and he told me it had been taken care of. And my position, it's in his corner. It's his responsibility.



U.S. REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO.): You have to be curious. You have to ask all the questions you can think of. You absolutely can't decide not to look into activities because one individual's parents don't want you to.


WALLACE: Laura, what's that all about? I mean, is the House...

INGRAHAM: Well, they want to be speaker.

WALLACE: I was going to say, is that the Republican leadership all jockeying already?

INGRAHAM: Yes, of course they are.

Here's the bottom line. I think David Bossie has a point, Tony has a point. The Republicans are restless, OK? What they want to talk about: border fence passed; Democrats tried to block. They want to talk about voter I.D.; Democrats blocked. They want to talk about the fact that the compromised interrogation bill passed; Democrats tried to block.

Democrats don't want to talk about these issues. They want to talk about Foley.

WALLACE: All right, but ...


WALLACE: ... the Republicans.

INGRAHAM: The Republicans want to find the leader coming up down the road. Who's the person who is going to be the articulate, confident spokesman of conservative ideals? Is it Hastert? Is it going to be Hastert after November? I think if you talk to Republicans and they're candid, they'll say probably not. It's going to be maybe one of these characters, maybe someone totally different. Republicans are hungry for a leader on conservative principles.

And this talk about who knew what when, what staffer told who, that's a loser for Republicans. Got to get back on substance, get off this defensive crouch. They have a lot of good stuff to talk about, and the Democrats don't want to talk about what Rangel's going to do when he's the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. That's for sure.

WALLACE: David Bossie, I mean, is that what's going on here, that there is just frustration in the Republican ranks with maybe all of these guys but certainly with Denny Hastert?

BOSSIE: I think you're right. I think that's a very good point, Laura.

Look, I served as the chief investigator for the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, so I know how to run an investigation; I know how these things work. This investigation is now off and running. A change in the leadership today or on Nov. 8 isn't going to change that. That is, the Justice Department, the FBI is now involved.

But I think that you're going to see a serious discussion after this election. And I just say Denny Hastert's going to end up not being the next speaker.

PERKINS: I think you can't underestimate the impact this is going to have on the election. I think you're going to have marginal voters that will drop off because of their disgust with the Republican Party, not only on this issue but a lack of advancing many of those core social issues. I think you're going to have marginal candidates that will suffer at the polls because they do not clearly articulate these issues.

I think the Republican Party is at a point of decision. I think some are questioning out there whether this big-tent strategy has led to a three-ring circus. I mean, there is some serious concern in the ranks of social conservatives.

WALLACE: But let me ask you about that, because you are one of the leaders of the Family Research Council, which has hundreds of thousands of followers. Obviously you haven't polled that group in the last week. But what are you hearing from the so-called "values voters," particularly about the Foley scandal and the issue as to whether the Republican leaders were more concerned with preserving power than they were with protecting kids?

PERKINS: Well, there is concern that it was either about power or a fear of a backlash of being called gay-bashing by simply addressing the issue of Foley's behavior. I think what people are questioning is, can this be the party of values and the party that attracts congressmen like Foley, who, you know, preys on little kids?

WALLACE: So, Tony, what's the practical effect, with the election now just 30 days away? Does this mean that the so-called values voters, do they stay home? Do they actually go and vote for the Democrat with whom they disagree on a lot of issues?

PERKINS: They don't stay home. What they do is — they have a strong sense of obligation and responsibility to vote. They vote in local elections. They vote in state elections. And they vote for congressional candidates and incumbents who take strong positions on these issues.

But those candidates who fail to articulate strong positions or do not have a strong record do not get the vote of those. I think they just skip over them at the polls. And I think you'll have marginal values voters that came out in 2004 because of the enthusiasm that was among the base; they don't go.

INGRAHAM: I just, I don't buy it. I don't buy that people are going to think, "Mark Foley was a creep. Maybe the leadership in the beginning didn't respond the right way, so we're going to not support the people that we thought were good beforehand." I don't think that's going to happen.

I think it's exactly what the media would like to see happen. I think the dinosaur media is pumping this story as much as possible. I don't blame them. It's titillating. It's certainly more interesting perhaps than what's happening in North Korea to them. And so, this is what they're going to do.

Republicans have to make a choice here. Are they going to act like defensive cry-babies complaining about ABC News, or are they going to get on the offensive, start talking about what the Democrats do when they have this problem? They give standing ovations, pensions, and return people to office. End of story. Move on. They've got to do that, Chris.

WALLACE: But, David, let me ask you about that, because I remember, in 2000, it was, in fact, FOX News that broke the story that George W. Bush had had a DUI arrest years before, and, after the fact, Karl Rove said that this cost them hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of votes with conservative votes. I mean, if people are unhappy with the candidates or with their leadership, can't that have an effect at the polls?

BOSSIE: It can. But, I have to tell you, my supporters, even though they support the principled position that I've taken, are 110 percent behind President Bush. My supporters are the base of this party.

We look at this and say, "Because of Mark Foley, are we going to turn to the wild-eyed leftists that are going to take over the asylum, in essence?" The inmates are going to take over the asylum in November if we don't do something. And we have a choice to make on Nov. 7. Conservatives have to turn out to vote for a strong economy, for a continued strong war on terror.

Those issues are much more important to the base voters. And Mark Foley, yes, is kind of a deterrent, a distraction. But over the next four weeks, Republican candidates — and there are so many great Republican candidates out there — they have to bring it home.

WALLACE: All right. We've got about a minute left. Laura and Tony, I want you to finish up here.

How much trouble — I'm asking you what you'd like. I'm asking you as a political analyst, how much trouble are Republicans in in their efforts to keep control? They were, even before the Foley scandal, they were in trouble. How much trouble are they in?

INGRAHAM: I think there are some major hurdles for the Republicans, and how they behave in the next week is going to determine, I think, what happens on Election Day. They've got to get out of this position of talking about — you know, these e-mails. Get off of it. Stop apologizing. Say what you've done. Move forward on these issues, which are winners. That's why the Democrats don't want to talk about the issues. They're losing across the board on their views on detainees, border fence, the list goes on.

WALLACE: Tony, you get the last word. How much trouble are Republicans in?

PERKINS: I think it's potentially a huge problem for them. People see this as symptomatic of a larger problem not only within the party but in the culture. And if we fail to address these issues, then I think they lose. People are looking to the Republicans for leadership. They cannot be the party of family values and the party of Mark Foley. They can't.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you all for coming in today, sharing your Sunday with us.