Hastert cancels on Illinois broadcasters convention

Dennis Hastert

Dennis Hastert

Memo to Illinois broadcasters: Dennis Hastert won’t be coming to your convention this week.

The former U.S. House Speaker was scheduled to appear before the Illinois Broadcasters Association Wednesday to present the group’s Vince Wasilewski Broadcaster of the Year Award to longtime friend and radio station owner Larry Nelson.

Now comes word that Hastert has been taken off the program at the association’s annual state conference at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.

Larry Nelson

Larry Nelson

At the suggestion of the Illinois Broadcasters Association, Nelson had invited Hastert to “be on hand to say a few words from the podium about his good friend Larry,” according to Dennis Lyle, president and chief executive officer of the statewide industry organization.

“The Nelsons have confirmed that Mr. Hastert will not be in attendance at Wednesday's luncheon,” Lyle said. “Our guess is that Mr. Hastert did not want his appearance to, in any way, be a distraction to Larry's special day.” The change of plans was first reported Monday by the daily radio management newsletter Tom Taylor Now.

Hastert pleaded not guilty last week to charges of lying to the FBI over bank withdrawals he allegedly made to cover up past sexual misconduct while he was a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School.

Nelson also invited Max Armstrong, veteran agriculture and business reporter at Tribune Media WGN AM 720, to present the award. Now Armstrong will handle the chores solo.

Hastert has long ties to the Illinois Broadcasters Association. In 1999 he was the first recipient of the organization’s Everett McKinley Dirksen Distinguished Service Award. The citation is presented to Illinois legislators “for outstanding service to the people of Illinois and in honor of unique contributions to society,” according to group’s website.

Nelson, a Chicago native who began as an engineer at WLS AM 890 and WIND AM 560, went on to own more than two dozen small market radio stations, including WSPY in Plano, Illinois, and WCSJ in Morris, Illinois. “Larry Nelson along with his wife and business partner Pam Nelson have spent a lifetime and career fulfilling the goal of the 1934 Communications Act, creating radio stations that fully serve, communicate to, and reflect the local communities they are licensed to,” according to the award announcement.

Another former U.S. representative is still scheduled to appear at the luncheon. Mike Rogers, the former Michigan congressman who now hosts the syndicated radio feature "Something to Think About" for Westwood One, is on tap to deliver the keynote speech.