The sister of a gay man who died from AIDS complications two decades ago tells ABC News her brother was sexually abused by Dennis Hastert, when the former Speaker of the House was a high-school wrestling coach in Illinois.
Steve Reinboldt, who was a student equipment manager at the Yorkville high school where Hastert was the wrestling coach, died in 1995, and only now — after years of trying to get his story told — is his sister finally sharing Steve’s shocking secret.
The woman, identified only as "Jolene," told ABC’s Brian Ross her brother first revealed he was gay in 1979.
“I asked him, 'when was your first same-sex experience?'" Jolene recalled. "He looked at me and said, 'it was with Dennis Hastert.’ ... I was stunned."
According to ABC News, Steve told his sister the abuse lasted throughout all four years of high school, from 1968 to 1971. “Mr. Hastert had plenty of opportunities to be alone with Steve, because he was there before the meets,” Jolene said. “He was there after everything because he did the laundry, the uniforms. So he was there by himself with him.”
Hastert also led an Explorers troop, of which Steve was a member. Photos Jolene shared with ABC News, taken by her brother, show Hastert with a group of boys on a diving trip to the Bahamas.
Jolene said as far as she knew, the abuse ended when her brother graduated in 1971 and moved out of town. She told ABC that Hastert “damaged Steve” irrevocably.
“He took his belief in himself, and his ... right to be a normal person. 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.”
Why, she wondered, had her brother never told anyone? So she asked him. “He just turned around and kind of looked at me and said, ‘Who is ever going to believe me?’”
After he died, Jolene was shocked to see Hastert be so “brash” as to show up at Steve's wake.
“I was just there just trying to bite my tongue, thinking that blood was coming out because I was just… So after he had gone through the line, I followed him out into the parking lot of the funeral home. I said, ‘I want to know why you did what you did to my brother.’ And he just stood there and stared at me. He didn’t say, ‘What are you talking about?’ you know, [or], ‘What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He just stood there and stared at me. Then I just continued to say, ‘I want you to know your secret didn’t die in there with my brother. And I want you to remember that I’m out here and that I know.’ And again, he just stood there and he did not say a word.”
According to Jolene, that's when Hastert got in his car and drove away. She told ABC his silence “said everything.”
Although she spent nearly a decade contacting the news media about her brother’s accusation, she was frustrated that no one believed her. ABC News reported that Hastert denied the claim at that time.
Then, two weeks ago, her phone rang. It was the FBI; they wanted to talk about Hastert.
“That’s when I just kind of lost it and said, 'Oh my God, I can’t believe — I never thought I was going to get this phone call… I thought it was over,'” she said.
Hastert, who lives in a Chicago suburb, was indicted last week on charges of bank fraud and lying to FBI agents after withdrawing $1.7 million in cash from several banks to pay hush money to a man — identified only as “Individual A” — who was a victim of alleged sexual misconduct decades ago, while Hastert was the high school wrestling coach.
Former congressman Barney Frank told MSNBC today the reports of Hastert’s indictment reminded him of the hypocrisy of the Republican Party:
“Dennis Hastert became speaker to preside over the impeachment of Bill Clinton, who was attacked because he had sex with an intern, of age, in a much less coercive relationship, than the teacher/student relationship Hastert is accused of orchestrating. He then went on as speaker to put before the House, twice, constitutional amendments that would have banned same-sex marriage. So it is re-affirmation of the hypocrisy that has existed particularly on the Republican side.”
Frank told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews this scandal involving Hastert is “directly relevant to the leadership of the Republican Party in control of Congress [at the time] and the introduction of antigay legislation.”
Frank was asked by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell if he suspected Hastert was anything but straight when they were in Congress together. Frank said he didn’t at the time, but now considers Hastert to be bisexual. Frank was the first congressman to come out as gay while in office in June 1987.
“If you had asked me… to draw up a list of the ten people least likely to have been engaged in sex with other men, Dennis would have been on that list. No, I never heard any rumors.”
NBC News quotes a friend of Steve’s, who did not want to be identified, as saying Steve told him in 1974 that he had his first sexual encounter with Hastert when Steve was a student.
Hastert, 73, is scheduled in court in Illinois next week to make his first appearance regarding the fraud charges. The FBI, Hastert and his representatives have declined to comment on the allegations.
Watch Mitchell's interview with former Rep. Frank about Hastert below in this clip from MSNBC.