Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, has been quiet and avoiding thousands of media calls for the last two weeks. Meanwhile, thousands of stories have been written about Hastert’s indictment on charges that he lied under oath about secret payoffs to a former male student Hastert molested. The public assumes, rightly or wrongly, that when a high profile politician is accused of a crime, and doesn’t defend himself or even answer questions, then he (these political sex scandals typically involve male politicians) must be guilty.
Hastert was the lowest profile high ranking official during his reign of power in Washington, so it’s possible he doesn’t really care about his reputation. At 73, with a Speakership in his bio, he has no further interest in running for office again. But presumably he does have an interest in making millions of dollars a year as a lobbyist.
Who would now hire him? What corporation or industry trade group wants to answer the question “Why are we putting money in the pocket of a child molester?”
Meanwhile, commentators are having a field day pointing out the ironies in Hastert’s fall:
Here is a guy who gleefully and enthusiastically voted for and rounded up support to impeach Bill Clinton for the crime of lying under oath about an underlying sex scandal. And yet now here is Hastert, caught lying under oath about an underlying sex scandal, though molesting a child is far worse than having a consensual relationship between 2 adults, as in Clinton’s case.
I’m thankful Hastert hasn’t hired me for crisis communications or reputation management at this point; I’m not sure what messages could possibly help him be seen in a positive light at the moment.
At this point, you have to assume that Hastert doesn’t care about his reputation or the long-term damage to the Republican “Traditional Family Values” brand. His exclusive focus appears to be staying out of jail.
TJ Walker is president of Media Training Worldwide. You can find his online training courses here. https://www.mediatrainingworldwide.com/online-training.htm