One of the men who was allegedly sexually abused as a boy by former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was identified by his sister Friday. Jolene Burdge said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that her brother, Steve Reinboldt, was abused by Hastert while in high school in Yorkville, Illinois.” Hastert was a wrestling coach at the school at the time of the alleged abuse.
Burdge also produced photos of her brother with Hastert during the time, saying that Steve told her the abuse lasted throughout his four years of high school, as he served as student manager of the wrestling team. “Mr. Hastert had plenty of opportunities to be alone with Steve, because he was there before the meets,” she said. “He was there after everything because he did the laundry, the uniforms. So he was there by himself with him.”
Burdge said that her brother told her his first gay experience had been with Hastert, who moved on to become a representative for Illinois’ 14th congressional district, where he served for 20 years.
“I asked him when was his first same-sex experience, and he just looked at me and said it was with Dennis Hastert,” Burdge told the network in the exclusive interview. “And I just, I know I was stunned.”
Hastert was indicted in May on charges of evading bank regulations and making false statements to the FBI. Prosecutors allege that the Republican, who was the longest-serving speaker of the house in congressional history, agreed to pay $3.5 million to a person in Illinois to remain silent about “prior misconduct.” Hastert has been accused by two male students of sexual misconduct. Burdge said in the interview that she believes the abuse with her brother ended in 1971, when Steve left Yorkville after graduating from high school. Steve Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995. Burdge said she believes Hastert’s alleged actions changed Steve's life for the worse.
“He took his belief in himself and his kind of right to be a normal person,” Jolene said. “Here was the mentor, the man who was, you know, basically his friend and stepped into that parental role, who was the one who was abusing him. … He damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know.”
As the scandal has unfolded, a sex-abuse survivors group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), has called for Hastert’s portrait to be removed from the House speaker's lobby. Current House Speaker John Boehner said he was “shocked and dismayed by the reports” and "had no inkling whatsoever” about Hastert’s past but urged patience when it came to removing the portrait. "It’s important for us to have the facts before we make decisions," Boehner said.
In a statement, SNAP insisted it wasn't rushing to judgment and that the portrait can be put back up if Hastert is exonerated. "But history, psychology and common sense -- plus the actions of the FBI, a U.S. prosecutor and Hastert himself -- all strongly suggest that [Hastert] exploited his power over a youngster to sexually gratify himself," the group said. "He does not deserve a place of honor in our nation's Capitol, even a symbolic one."