Former Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) likely knew about allegations that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) sexually abused a male student when he previously worked as a high school teacher and wrestling coach, an anonymous source told The Huffington Post for an article published Tuesday.
The source, who HuffPost said did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, told the news site that Watt had been approached about the alleged abuse years ago by someone who knew him informally and was acting as an intermediary for the family of Hastert’s alleged victim. The conversation happened “relatively early” in Hastert’s tenure as House speaker, according to the report.
HuffPost reported that it was unclear whether Watt, who is currently the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, did anything with that information. Watt was a six-year Democratic veteran of the House when Hastert was unexpectedly elected to the lead the Republican-controlled chamber in 1999.
A spokeswoman for Watt declined to comment to HuffPost.
Hastert was indicted Thursday on bank-related charges stemming from his alleged agreement to pay out $3.5 million to “compensate for and conceal prior misconduct” against a person identified only as “Individual A.” The indictment did not specify the misconduct, but said it occurred years earlier.
Later news reports based on anonymous federal law enforcement sources identified “Individual A” as a male student from Hastert’s time teaching and coaching at a high school in Yorkville, Illinois. Those sources said the “misconduct” mentioned in the indictment was sexual abuse.
Hastert is scheduled to be arraigned June 9 in U.S. district court in Chicago. He hasn’t commented publicly on the charges and it’s unclear whether he’s retained a lawyer.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.