We Will Stand With the Speaker for as Long as It Takes ... for Him to Clean Out His Desk

What did John Boehner know and when did he know it? The House majority leader is apparently having a tough time with his memory. In less than a week, he's trotted out three different versions of his conversations with House Speaker Dennis Hastert about the Mark Foley sex scandal. On Friday, The Washington Post quoted Boehner saying he first learned of some "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page last spring. He said he informed Hastert, who assured him "we're taking care of it." But after Hastert's office strongly denied he had been informed, Boehner's office scrambled to retreat and insisted the Post had misquoted him. "He can't say with any certainty whether he spoke to anybody else [about the Foley matter]," Boehner's spokesman, Kevin Madden, told NEWSWEEK on Saturday morning.

On Friday night, Boehner got the Post to change the wording of their early Saturday-edition piece and take out the "we're taking care of it" line. Here is the wording of the Saturday, Sept. 30, later-edition story after Boehner called to complain: "The resignation rocked the Capitol, and especially Foley's GOP colleagues, as lawmakers were rushing to adjourn for at least six weeks. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate 'contact' between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert."

Then, Tuesday morning, as the scandal seemed to be escalating out of control, Boehner's memory appeared to have been refreshed. "I believe I had talked to the speaker and he told me it had been taken care of,'' Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told Cincinnati's 700 WLW Radio yesterday. "It's in his corner, it's his responsibility.''

But Wednesday morning, Boehner wanted to make it clear that he is still sticking by his man. The Washington Times reports that Boehner sent a letter in response to an editorial in the newspaper calling for Hastert to step down. "Had Speaker Hastert or anyone else in our leadership known about Mr. Foley's despicable conduct, I'm confident the Speaker would have moved to expel Mr. Foley immediately and turn him over to the appropriate authorities," Boehner said.

For now, most of the attention in the scandal's aftermath seems focused on whether Hastert--and his Republican colleagues in tight races--will survive. The man in line to succeed him might be wondering the same thing.