Former Congressman Mel Watt (D-NC), who now serves as the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, released a statement late Tuesday afternoon in response to an article in The Huffington Post which suggested that he heard early in the last decade that then-Speaker Denny Hastert had a history of sexual abuse.
“Over 15 years ago I heard an unseemly rumor from someone who, contrary to what has been reported, was not an intermediary or advocate for the alleged victim’s family,” Watt said in an emailed statement. “It would not be the first nor last time that I, as a Member of Congress, would hear rumors or innuendoes about colleagues. I had no direct knowledge of any abuse by former Speaker Hastert and, therefore, took no action.”
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.