Foley-Posting. It Must Be Done. (Update: IMs a Page Prank Gone Awry???)

Mary Katharine Ham
|
Posted: Oct 05, 2006 12:28 PM

Scroll for more updates...

Update: All right, take this with a salt lick, but Drudge has the sirens on for this:

According to two people close to former congressional page Jordan Edmund, the now famous lurid AOL Instant Message exchanges that led to the resignation of Mark Foley were part of an online prank that by mistake got into the hands of enemy political operatives, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal... Developing...

But then why would Foley resign? Just because he's gay? This don't make no sense. If it's true, though? Best. Rovian. Plot. Ever. Btw, I'm making light of libs who think Rove is capable of such things, not the scandal at hand.

All right, the page outed on Drudge last night now has a lawyer.

The Drudge headline still reads, "Famous IM Exchange Was With 18-Year-Old," which is misleading since the kid was 17 for part of the IM exchanges and turned 18 while in contact with the Congressman.

ABC is doing some misleading, too. I said last night I thought it was really irresponsible for them to refer to all the pages as underaged when one of them did turn 18 during the span of the contact he had with the Congressman. It's one of those things that is probably an honest oversight, but when you're dealing with a story that has the potential to change the course of an entire Congressional election, and the lives of many people involved, you have a responsibility not to overlook things.

If I had made a mistake like that on a big story even at the small newspaper where I reported, I would have been mortified, because the error would have cast doubt on the rest of the story. I imagine my editors would have taken some action, at least prominently correcting my story, and I would have wanted them to. Shouldn't the standard be the same for a national news organization reporting on a story of national significance?

It's not.

But in the wake of the Drudge pounding tonight, the news network surreptitiously edited its misreporting on the young man's age at the time of one of the IM exchanges without bothering to make clear it was a correction.

Originally, ABC News had reported:

ABC News now has obtained 52 separate instant message exchanges, which former pages say were sent by Foley, using the screen name Maf54, to two different boys under the age of 18.

It appears that after the Drudge headline went up, ABC News changed the wording without acknowledging the change:

ABC News now has obtained 52 separate instant message exchanges, which former pages say were sent by Foley, using the screen name Maf54, to two different boys who began their exchanges with Foley at the age of 16 and 17, and continued through the age of 18.

Now, I know I'm a little closer to my journalism school education than the folks at ABC, but making a correction without noting it is totally unacceptable according to journalistic ethics. This is well-known. The original oversight sheds doubt on ABC's reporting in all this, and the sneaky correction sheds more on it.

Allah and the rest of the crew at Hot Air are doing the rough work of sifting through all this and trying to figure out who the middleman is who held all this information until a couple weeks before an election. They'll be updating all day.

It will get totally lost on voters, I fear, but that person--in all likelihood, a Dem operative--is more guilty of shielding Foley and endangering kids than Hastert is, for sure.

The Hill reports that the person who gave the original, fairly innocuous e-mails to the media months ago was a Republican. It's worth noting that neither the St. Petersburg Times nor the Miami Herald nor the e-mail page's parents felt the need to take action based on those e-mails.

So, what about the mysterious blog that first ran the e-mails a week before the story hit MSM? Brian Ross of ABC says he didn't know about StopSexPredators when his initial report went up. But someone at Daily Kos, Michael Rogers, and liberal advocacy group C.R.E.W. did.

The SSS kids are staying anonymous, according to CNN:

The owner of Stop Sex Predators responded to CNN inquires from an anonymous e-mail address posted on the Web site.

"My plans are to remain anonymous for the foreseeable future," the Web site's owner wrote in an e-mail. "I've been getting threats from folks and will no longer allow the posting of comments on the website. I can't believe the anger out there for exposing a hypocritical sex predator."

Someone at LittleGreenFootballs found a possible IP address for the SSS site, and it's in Royal Oak, Mich. But, if the Kos contributor who noted the SSS posts conspicuously early is the same person as the SSS blog-proprietor, I reckon Kos knows who it is, doesn't he? I'm not all that computery, but I'm pretty sure he has access to the info on that.

Hastert said yesterday that he's staying in his post, but I heard this morning on Fox that he said he would resign if it would help Republicans win in November, or something. Of course it wouldn't end the political feeding frenzy. Democrats would just gleefully call for another head, which is why I think it's dumb that some Republicans seem determined to abet them before all the info is out.

Hastert also took a shot at Dems and Soros-backed typed yesterday, for wanting "this thing to blow up," which, of course they do. Soros will be on Cavuto on Fox today, presumably to respond. He's a loony speaker no matter what he's saying, so that could be a bright spot in the day.

A lot of folks are e-mailing me about Ann Coulter's column on this, which highlights the ridiculousness of Dems suddenly embracing spying on private communications and condemning gay Congressmen for illicit relationships with subordinates:

But now, the same Democrats who are incensed that Bush's National Security Agency was listening in on al-Qaida phone calls are incensed that Republicans were not reading a gay congressman's instant messages.

Let's run this past the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: The suspect sent an inappropriately friendly e-mail to a teenager -- oh also, we think he's gay. Can we spy on his instant messages? On a scale of 1 to 10, what are the odds that any court in the nation would have said: YOU BET! Put a tail on that guy -- and a credit check, too!

This cartoon makes the same point. 

I don't think it diminishes my own condemnations of Foley to point out that the moral outrage from Democrats on this is a little out of character. If Hastert had gone after a gay Congressman's private e-mails and IMs based only upon those e-mails he saw, he would have been cried to the heavens as the biggest homophobe since Khatami (although Khatami's homophobia is a cultural choice, so by all means...).

Kirk Fordham claims he gave Hastert's office warnings in 2003 about Foley, but Fordham was also trying to make deals with ABC News last week to prevent the publication of the IMs and, presumably, mitigate the fallout.

So, are we back to "who the heck knows?" Blech.

Hastert press conference at 1 p.m. 

I forgot to add that John Hawkins, John at Wuzzadem, and Michelle Malkin felt somewhat the same about the outing of a page yesterday. Ace specifically held the page's info until Drudge ran with it because of concerns.

Update: Y'all don't worry, though. The press will cover all of this with a very even hand, with no preconceived notions or prejudices at all. Sheesh.

Update: Louis Freeh will head up the investigation of the page program, to take weeks, not months. Hastert still hasn't spoken, but he's unlikely to announce a resignation, but all indications.

Update: Hastert "takes responsibility" and Allah has video.

Will taking responsibility be enough to abate this? 

Update: Okay, I have to note this because Betsy Newmark is a very reasonable woman whom I respect very much. I'm very skeptical of the "prank" storyline, but Betsy was saying this a couple days ago, and she has plenty of experience with high-school kids. Hmm. Still skeptical.

Update: I'm leaving on a jet plane, so I won't be updating until this evening. Sorry, guys! Check any of the blogs linked in this post while I'm gone. Most of them are all over it. I'll be back as soon as possible.