CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reported that President Bush "threw" Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) "a lifeline for the speakership" when Hastert "came out publicly, taking responsibility" for the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley, but she ignored recent comments by Hastert that undermine his assertion that he is "taking responsibility" for the scandal.
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On the October 12 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported that President Bush "threw" Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) "a lifeline for the speakership" when Hastert "came out publicly, taking responsibility" for the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL). But Malveaux ignored the fact that, during the same October 5 press conference in which Hastert said that he was "taking responsibility" for the Foley scandal, he also told reporters that "I haven't done anything wrong, obviously," as Media Matters for America has noted.
Moreover, more recent comments by Hastert further undermine the assertion that he is "taking responsibility" for the Foley scandal. At the October 5 press conference, Hastert said that "the bottom line is that we're taking responsibility, because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before: The buck stops here." But on October 10, Hastert appeared to place all accountability over how his office handled the Foley matter on his aides, saying that if they had "covered up" or "hidden" information, he would fire them. According to an October 11 Los Angeles Times article, Hastert said that while he thought his aides had "handled [the Foley matter] as well as they should ... if anybody's found to have hidden information or covered up information, they really should be gone." Hastert, however, "refused to discuss suggestions that he resign as speaker," according to the Times.
From the 7 p.m. ET hour of the October 12 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Tonight, President Bush is standing with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, literally, in the wake of the Mark Foley congressional page scandal. They're both attending a political fundraiser in Chicago only hours after a key witness was questioned by lawmakers about the Foley fiasco. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is standing by. But let's go to Chicago, our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux with the latest. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Well, Wolf, it wasn't a hug or a big wet kiss, but it certainly was unequivocal support for the speaker, President Bush style, both of them sharing the stage at this GOP fundraiser. The president sending a very clear message to the Republican Party to get onboard, get in line here, that the only way that the Republicans are going to be able to maintain the House and the Senate as if they back Speaker Hastert. Now, this is all a part of a White House strategy. First and foremost, that is to get back on the offense and then, secondly, back on message. President Bush earlier this evening.
BUSH [video clip]: I want to say this to you -- I am proud to be standing with the current speaker of the House, who is going to be the future speaker of the House.
MALVEAUX: And Wolf, we heard that applause time and time again as the president went forward, very supportive of Speaker Hastert. Now, this is really an evolution for the president. When the scandal first broke, of course, President Bush, like many people, waited for a couple of days to see how the facts were going to unfold. And then, of course, when Hastert came out publicly, taking responsibility for this, launching these investigations, President Bush picking up the phone, called Hastert and essentially threw him a lifeline for the speakership. So that, of course, sending a very strong message. What you are seeing tonight is part political calculus but also genuine loyalty. Wolf?
BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much. Suzanne in Chicago.