Federal Housing Finance Authority Director nominee Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., listening as President Barack Obama announces Watt's nomination for the, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, May 1, 2013.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

Former lawmaker heard ‘unseemly’ Hastert rumor 15 years ago

When news of the scandal surrounding former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) first broke, so much of the political world was surprised because of his reputation. While ugly rumors often dog high-profile lawmakers – some of them true, some of them not – the Illinois Republican was never the subject of scandalous gossip.
But the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reported this afternoon that “at least one member of Congress was likely aware” of the allegations surrounding Hastert.
Relatively early on during Hastert’s speakership, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) was approached with news about the alleged abuse, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation that took place with Watt. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.
According to the source, the person who approached Watt was an intermediary for the family of the abuse victim and knew the North Carolina congressman informally.
The Rachel Maddow Show received a comment from Watt, who now directs the Federal Housing Finance Agency, this afternoon:
“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.  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.”
We’ll have more on this story on tonight’s show.