Speaker Ryan Orders Dennis Hastert’s Portrait to Be Removed From House Hallway

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images - FILE

New Speaker Paul Ryan has had a portrait of Dennis Hastert removed from a hallway outside the House chamber, just days after the former speaker pleaded guilty to breaking banking laws in a hush money scheme.

The picture of Hastert had hung for years in the Speaker's Lobby, a plush area just outside the House chamber where lawmakers and reporters often congregate during votes. That lobby's walls have portraits of 22 former speakers with another 28 hanging in corridors just outside the lobby.

Its removal marks one of the first visible changes instituted by Ryan who became speaker last Thursday following the resignation of Speaker John Boehner.

Asked for details about why the portrait was taken down, Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, "The speaker believed it was appropriate to rotate in a different portrait."

Hastert pleaded guilty last Wednesday to evading banking laws. He acknowledged in a written agreement that he tried paying someone $3.5 million to hide misconduct decades ago, around the period he was a high school wrestling coach.

Anonymous sources have told The Associated Press that the payments were meant to hide claims of sexual misconduct.

According to the House Clerk's office, the tradition of collecting speakers' portraits began in 1852.

Since 1910, the House has required that it acquire oil portraits of every speaker "of whom no acceptable portrait was in possession of the House." Every speaker since 1910 has had a portrait made, including several paintings it commissioned of speakers who had already died.

Not yet hanging in that lobby are portraits of Boehner and of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is still in Congress as House minority leader.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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