MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The future of Speaker Dennis Hastert has been on the mind of conservative activist Paul Weyrich. He's head of the Free Congress Foundation and yesterday, along with six other conservative leaders, he signed an open letter demanding the immediate resignation of any member of Congress who acted improperly in the Foley affair. Weyrich went one step further. He publicly called for Speaker Hastert to resign over the matter.
Today, Weyrich says he's still upset about the whole scandal but he changed his mind about Speaker Hastert after he received a phone call from the Congressman this morning.
Mr. PAUL WEYRICH (Free Congress Foundation): He absolutely assured me that Congressman Boehner, the majority leader, never called him on this and as far as Reynolds is concerned, he said, you know, maybe he talk with him but if he did he has no recollection of it.
Here is the real problem. It has been known for many years that Congressman Foley was a homosexual. Homosexuals tend to be preoccupied with sex. The idea that he should be continued or should have been continued as chairman of the Committee on Missing and Exploited Children is, you know, given their knowledge of that, is just outrageous.
NORRIS: Now before we go on, I think I can say, Mr. Weyrich, that there are quite a few people who would take exception to the statement that homosexuals are preoccupied with sex.
Mr. WEYRICH: Well, I don't care whether they take exception to it. It happens to be true. I mean -
NORRIS: That is your opinion.
Mr. WEYRICH: Well, it's not my opinion. It's the opinion of many psychologists and psychiatrists who have to deal with them.
NORRIS: I want to return to Speaker Hastert if I could. You're saying now that you believe him when he tells you that Congressman Reynolds and Congressman Boehner did not let him know about this issue, and I'm wondering if that's changed your views, because earlier in the week you were saying that Speaker Hastert needs to step down. Do you still believe he needs to step down?
Mr. WEYRICH: Probably not. I think that without talking with him, which I should have done, I kind of jumped the gun. On the other hand, in the remote possibility that Republicans retain the majority in the Congress - and I think it is a remote possibility - I really think that the speaker has to examine the way his office is operated.
NORRIS: Within the GOP there's a great concern right now about the so-called value voters. Across the country, will it depress turnout? Will they stay home?
Mr. WEYRICH: I think it will. Yes. I think it will, because what it says is, you know, it doesn't matter who's in charge. We have the same problems.
NORRIS: You know, you say that Speaker Hastert has won a reprieve from you. You're no longer calling for his resignation. But if he doesn't step down, then who does take responsibility for this?
Mr. WEYRICH: Well, as it is I suppose nobody will end up taking responsibility in the sense that they're pointing fingers at each other. I believe Denny. I -look, in every case you have to make some kind of a judgment. People ought to know that I do not put personal friendship or party or anything above telling it like it is. If I thought for one minute that Denny Hastert really was responsible for this, I would be in there screaming for his resignation.
NORRIS: Does this scandal undermine or confuse the Republican Party's self-proclaimed role as the protector of traditional family values? Is the party vulnerable now to charges of hypocrisy?
Mr. WEYRICH: Uh, sure. When you say that you're the flagship of traditional values and then this comes along and you handle it the way you did, I think it can't help but undermine their image with the public.
NORRIS: Mr. Weyrich, thanks so much for talking to us.
Mr. WEYRICH: Sure.
NORRIS: Paul Weyrich is the chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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