Social conservative leaders last week seemed united in their demand for a full investigation of the scandal surrounding disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley (R.-Fla.), and also in the belief that “Values Voters” should nonetheless support the GOP in the midterm elections.
The Executive Committee of the Arlington Group, a coalition of pro-family organizations, called on the House Republican leadership to “demand the resignation of any member who has acted improperly in this matter” and that “legal authorities prosecute any person who had knowledge of any such activity but did not report it immediately.” The group did not call for House Speaker Hastert’s resignation.
One member of the committee did call on Hastert to go, but reversed himself a day later following a call from the speaker. Free Congress Foundation Chairman Paul Weyrich had told Human Events: “I think Hastert should do the right thing and resign. What people tell me over and over again is that no one in Washington ever takes responsibility. If Hastert resigned, he would help the party.” But Weyrich told reporters the next day that Hastert called him and insisted he didn’t receive clear warnings from fellow leaders or aides about Foley’s e-mails. Calling the speaker “one of the more honest people I know,” Weyrich said, “I can take his word, and as a result, I told him I’d back him on it.”
Marjorie Dannensfelser of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List echoed the sentiment of many of her allies in the movement. “If everyone goes down in November because of Mark Foley, we will lose our best shot since 1973 of reversing the pro-abortion trend that began with Roe v. Wade,” she said. “Our sterling pro-life conservatives are not any less sterling because Mark Foley is a pervert.”
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said, “Everyone should be judged by his or her own merits and not smeared by someone else’s scandal.”
The Rev. Don Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Association, said: “Should the voters sit out? I don’t think so. I would take the opposite view and think the voters need to turn out. You have to consider the options and the results of your actions. All of us are disgusted with this, but it may turn out to our benefit. I’m just not ready to say ‘sit it out’ because that’s precisely what the liberals want, and I think this whole thing has been orchestrated to accomplish this goal—the ‘values voters’ would simply say ‘to heck with it’ and ‘forget it’ and ‘I’m sitting this one out.’ We could lose some good people if we do that.”
Regarding an exit by Speaker Hastert, Wildmon said: “Not now. We need to wait until all this gets out, until we know all the facts, who knew what and when. That’s important.”
Asked whether Hastert should resign, Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, replied Wednesday: “Given the present state of information, no. Reading the chronology of events in the New York Times, there is no firm evidence the speaker knew anything but the inappropriate e-mails, which is different from the graphic text messages [Foley sent to a teenage page]. Speaker Hastert is a man of honor, and from my dealings with him, I find his word is his bond. Absent any compelling evidence to the contrary, I believe him.”