* Jolene Burdge’s brother had confided to her that Dennis Hastert had molested him, and she says she confronted Hastert with the information after her brother’s wake in 1995. She then attempted to tell the public about Hastert’s dark secret in 2006. Roll Call tells us what happened…
Burdge said the Foley scandal convinced her that she had to come forward. She wrote letters to an advocacy group for victims of priest sex abuse, a prominent defense attorney who had tried several sex abuse cases, ABC News and Oprah Winfrey’s media company. She told all of them that she knew why Hastert hadn’t delved more deeply into complaints about Foley.
Only, Burdge was afraid to allow the news organizations to use her name, and she did not want to take on someone of Hastert’s caliber without support. “I didn’t know what could happen to me,” she said. “I didn’t know if I had any rights.”
Unable to quote her by name, the news organizations balked. Asked why ABC did not air Burdge’s claim at the time, spokeswoman Caragh Fisher referred to a story the network published in June, saying it could not corroborate Burdge’s story and that Hastert denied her claim. The Associated Press also reported in June that it had contacted Burdge after receiving a tip, but Burdge would not go on the record. A spokeswoman for the Oprah Winfrey Network did not return a request for comment.
Defense attorney Jeff Anderson and victims advocate Barbara Blaine both said they believed Burdge’s story, but there was little they could do. Reinboldt was dead, and the Illinois statute of limitations had expired decades earlier.
“We didn’t have any way to expose him or do anything with it,” said Blaine, who leads SNAP, the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests.
Anderson said at least one other person had come to him with similar allegations about Hastert.
“I thought the information given to us in the strictest of confidence was credible, was serious and deserved serious attention,” Anderson said. Still, “there was little or nothing that could be done given the information received.”
* From that AP statement…
As a scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley was unfolding in 2006, a person with no firsthand knowledge pointed The Associated Press to Jolene Burdge. On the phone and by email she repeatedly declined to talk about Dennis Hastert and provided no information that would have allowed AP to pursue a story, despite AP’s further efforts to do so at the time.