Foley: What Did Hastert Know and When Did He Know It?

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Oct 01, 2006 2:40 AM

I find tonight that there are reports that House Speaker Hastert may have known something about Rep. Mark Foley's misconduct in 2005 and done nothing about it.

Here's the Roll Call story:

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) issued a statement Saturday in which he said that he had informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of allegations of improper contacts between then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and at least one former male page, contradicting earlier statements from Hastert.

GOP sources said Reynolds told Hastert earlier in 2006, shortly after the February GOP leadership elections. Hastert's response to Reynolds' warning remains unclear.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Here's the AP story, which makes it sound equally bad:

Rep. Thomas Reynolds, head of the House Republican election effort, said Saturday he told Speaker Dennis Hastert months ago about concerns that a fellow GOP lawmaker had sent inappropriate messages to a teenage boy. Hastert's office said aides referred the matter to the proper authorities last fall but they were only told the messages were "over-friendly."

The lede on the Roll Call story doesn't specify exactly what Hastert knew about, and the lede on the AP story says Hastert knew about "inappropriate messages." If you read a little farther in both stories you'll find the details of Reynolds' statement:

"Rodney Alexander brought to my attention the existence of e-mails between Mark Foley and a former page of Mr. [Rodney Alexander's [R-La.]. Despite the fact that I had not seen the e-mails in question, and Mr. Alexander told me that the parents didn't want the matter pursued, I told the Speaker of the conversation Mr. Alexander had with me.

He was informed about the e-mails, not the instant messages. Here's the text of the e-mails:

The e-mails were sent from Foley's personal AOL account, and the exchange began within weeks after the page finished his program on Capitol Hill. In one, Foley writes, "did you have fun at your conference…what do you want for your birthday coming up…what stuff do you like to do."

In another Foley writes, "how are you weathering the hurricane…are you safe…send me an email pic of you as well…"

The young man was bothered by these e-mails, but his parents wanted no action taken beyond having the contact stopped. Rep. Shimkus, a Republican on the page board, confronted Foley at the time:

The House clerk then met with Shimkus, and the two of them later confronted Foley and told him to stop communicating with the young man. All involved didn't discuss the matter further because they were "mindful of the sensitivity to the parent's wishes to protect their child's privacy,'' the statement said. 

When I first read the e-mails, I thought, "Hmm, that's a little odd and a tinge creepy, but could have an innocent explanation." I wasn't ready to declare the man a child molester. I imagine Hastert might have felt the same, especially given that it sounds like he and Reynolds only got a description of the e-mails or simple notification that they existed.

Now, if he had known about the IMs, it would have been a different story. Then I'd be in the same boat with Capt. Ed. Here's the text of the IMs:

Maf54: You in your boxers, too?
Teen: Nope, just got home. I had a college interview that went late.
Maf54: Well, strip down and get relaxed.

Another message:

Maf54: What ya wearing?
Teen: tshirt and shorts
Maf54: Love to slip them off of you.

And this one:

Maf54: Do I make you a little horny?
Teen: A little.
Maf54: Cool.

And, they get worse, apparently. Thirty-five pages worth of worse. But can we really blame Hastert for not assuming that would be the case? The IMs reflect an entirely different story than the e-mails did, and it's easy for us to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that Hastert should have known, but I don't think I would have.

Tom Maguire has another idea of a legitimate concern facing Hastert when he learned of the e-mails in 2005:

However, picture this headline - "House Leadership Boots Allegedly Gay Republican On Trumped-Up Pedophilia Charges". Ugly. Worth Avoiding. Listening to Andrew Sullivan decry the homophobes in the House would not have been worth it. So they played it a bit too cautiously and slowly and here we are.

But hey, what can I say? I'm just benefit-of-the-doubt girl this week. I've defended Allen, Webb, Malkin, and now Hastert. According to Kos, that'd be two racists, a xenophobe, and a pedophile-protector. I'm battin' a thousand. Come and get me, liberals.

The issue is going to the House ethics committee. Foley has resigned, as he should have, and will be investigated and subject to punishment for his conduct, as he should be. If all of this is true, it is such an utter shame that Foley would prey on the youngest, most innocent people on the Hill. It's such an utter shame that I have to believe Republican leaders had no inkling of the extent of Foley's misconduct or they would have done more to protect those in his charge.

Should they have figured it out? Arguably, but as I said, I don't think I would assumed this based on what they knew. Unfortunately, this is one of those stories that's easy to splash around as evidence that House Republicans are a bunch of pedophile-protecting scumbags, when there really do seem to be some mitigating factors, here. From what I've heard in the last couple of days about past page exploitation, it sounds like everyone on the Hill needs to be keeping a closer eye on these things. This sad case will likely serve as a call for everyone to do just that.

Also, how exactly does the storyline of Republicans knowingly protecting a homosexual and alleged child molestor in their midst jibe with the more common stereotype of the homophobic, gay-hating Republican? It seems to me the liberals who are going to pile on this story should have to pick one or the other, or explain the discrepancy.

I'll wait for more to come out on exactly what Hastert and Co. knew-- oh, and it will, during Try-To-Bash-Republicans-Into-A-15-Seat-House-Loss Month in the national press, which just happens to coincide with October--before I call them a bunch of pedophile-protectors. 

Either way, nasty, disgraceful, disappointing, surprising conduct on Foley's part.

Update:  Some folks are looking into how the Foley story migrated so quickly from a very new, very obscure blog last Sunday to the mainstream media and liberal activist groups like George Soros-funded C.R.E.W.

First, The American Mind:

It is not only the recent, unread blog spot breaking the story which raises my suspicions. The rest of the genesis of the story is as murky.

Brian Ross of ABC ran the story, beginning with the same “overly friendly” but not sexually suggestive email exchange and adding a series of instant messages dating to 2003 previously unseen by anyone in Congress between Foley and anonymous recipients said to be former pages. The Republican leaders, seeing the more damning correspondence, sought and got Foley’s resignation.

As soon as the ABC story ran, and organization called C.R.E.W., which said it had the original exchange which Hastert had heard of and the St Peterburg paper had seen, put them on their website .They said they’d earlier conveyed them to the FBI, were releasing them because of the ABC story, and asked for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Republican leadership.It is abundantly clear to me that C.R.E.W. and ABC communicated and may have coordinated the release of this story.

Second, Rightwing Nuthouse:

The real question is if CREW sat on these emails for months with the knowledge that children were at risk on the Hill thanks to stalker Foley. And if CREW knew, why release the raunchy IM now?

For maximum political damage to Republicans, of course. And I would hope that some enterprising reporters and bloggers out there will ferret out the details of this story and bring to light everything that needs to be known.

And last, Tom Maguire notices that someone at Daily Kos got hold of the story just hours after the story went up on the Stop Sex Predators blog.

I was browsing at Stop Sex Predators and went into the comments on the story about Foley's e-mails. In that comment thread, about 5 hours after the post went up, who shows up to leave the third comment but Michael Rogers.

michael rogers said...

can someone from this site contact me at mrogers@blogactive.com... Thank you so much.

4:34 PM

Who's Michael Rogers? This is Michael Rogers:

As many of you know, Rogers is the host and agent of a widely publicized "outing campaign" at BlogActive.com targeting closeted gay Republicans. One of the most notable results of this campaign was the dramatic retirement of a Republican Virginia Congressman, Ed Schrock. The most recent outing was that of Ken Mehlman, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee. Whatever you believe about the practice, it is difficult to ignore the political impact the campaign has had over the past year.

According to GayPatriot, who is also a client of mine, Michael Rogers called GayPatriot's place of employment on Friday immediately following the post above and spoke to GayPatriot's secretary and boss. GayPatriot had no idea Rogers would go to such measures and shared with me that both he and his secretary were very upset by the calls but that his boss was understanding.

Michael Rogers--the notorious outer of Republican gays who's had Foley in his sights for years.

Of course, there is the chance that someone is pretending to be Rogers in the comments thread. But then I noticed that Miami Herald journalist Steve Rothaus showed up in the same thread to ask for commenters on the story.

And, who shows up in Rothaus' Saturday story but Michael Rogers:

'He was a homophobe who needed to be exposed,'' said journalist Michael Rogers, whose website, http://www.blogactive.com/, reported on Rep. Mark Foley of West Palm Beach for three years.

''I first started to report on Foley in March 2003,'' said Rogers, who is gay. 'The reason why -- he's antigay. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and has not renounced that vote. He refused to acknowledge that he supported the repeal of `don't ask, don't tell.' He would not sign on as a co-sponsor. He should be held accountable for not supporting that or co-sponsoring.

``No community is expected to harbor their own enemies from within. He is an enemy of our community, yet he wants to step into our community and put us at risk. He puts every one of us in a bad light.''

Those are the first three paragraphs on that story, by the way. Nice quote placement. Rogers didn't write about the story on his blog until Sept. 27, by the way, three days after he was in the comments at Stop Sex Predators.

I guess Rogers could conceivably have a Technorati watchlist or a Google News alert for Foley's name that brought this up just hours after it was posted, but it does seem that this little blog post got to all the right people in a very short period of time-- Daily Kos, Soros-funded C.R.E.W. and Michael Rogers within hours.