FACT CHECK: Excuses About The Foley Cover-Up Debunked

Some leading conservatives have tried to excuse, justify, or downplay the scandal surrounding Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-FL) predatory behavior towards underage pages. We debunk their claims below:

EXCUSE #1: Foley’s initial e-mails seemed harmless, “over friendly”.

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said he dropped the matter when Foley told them, “When I was a young person, an adult (who) became my mentor inspired me to be a congressman, and that’s all I’m doing.” Foley said if he was guilty of anything, Shimkus said, it was of being “overly friendly.” [St. Louis Tribune, 10/1/06]

“[T]he actual notes were relatively innocuous — there was nothing sexual in those notes.” [Newt Gingrich, Fox News Sunday, 10/1/06]


FACT: At least 11 House members and staff, all Republicans, knew of the inappropriate emails sent by Foley to a page in 2005. In the e-mails, Foley asked the page to “send me a pic of you” and said about another young page, “he’s in really good shape.” The boy told House officials that Foley’s messages “freaked him out” and were “sick, sick, sick, sick, sick.” Dr. Timothy M. Osberg, a psychologist and professor of psychology at Niagara University, said that the e-mail, coupled with the boy’s reaction to it, “should send up red flags.”


EXCUSE #2: The parents didn’t want the matter pursued.

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) said Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) “told him that he had spoken with the page’s parents. They didn’t want the matter pursued, he said, ‘so I thought it had to be pretty well satisfied.’” [Buffalo News, 10/1/06]

FACT: The House leadership had an obligation to protect the dozens of pages who are under their care. At the very least, Foley’s emails should have been passed on law authorities, and the full House page board should have been informed.


EXCUSE #3: Democrats are exploiting this issue for political gain right before the November elections.

Reynolds called his critics’ reactions to his negligence in the Foley case “as crass as anything I have seen.” “I’m certainly not going to react to some campaign rhetoric…on a tragic incident of a page,” he said. [Buffalo News, 10/1/06]

“I don’t believe in coincidence, and apparently neither does Hastert. The timing of this revelation has more to do about helping Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats than protecting teenagers with whom Foley was communicating.” [Mark Levin, National Review, 10/1/06]

FACT: The House leadership consistently hid this case from the public for partisan purposes. In late 2005, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the House Page Board, “was notified by the then Clerk of the House, who manages the Page Program, that he had been told by Congressman Rodney Alexander (R-LA) about an email exchange between Congressman Foley and a former House Page.” Shimkus interviewed Foley and told him “to cease all contact with this former house page.” But Shimkus never informed Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), the only Democrat on the House page board. Today, Hastert held a meeting “to review ways to protect pages,” but once again, Kildee was not invited.


EXCUSE #4: Former President Bill Clinton wasn’t harshly penalized for his relations with Monica Lewinsky.

“Nor did inappropriate behavior toward a subordinate even cost Bill Clinton his standing within the Democratic Party, even though indirectly he was impeached for it.” [Fox News host Brit Hume, 10/1/06]

FACT: Foley made unwanted advances toward underage boys, which one page described as “sick” and reported to authorities. Clinton had a consensual relationship with an adult. The fact that it was an extramarital affair was virtually unanimously condemned by members of both parties.


EXCUSE #5: This scandal is minor compared to other scandals on Capitol Hill.

“I hate to tell you, but it’s not always pretty up there on Capitol Hill. And there have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply naughty e-mails.” [White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, 10/2/06]

FACT: The emails were not “simply naughty.” They were predatory, extremely inappropriate, and potentially in violation of federal law.


EXCUSE #6: House leaders would have been accused of “gay bashing” if they had pursued the case.

“Well, you could have second thoughts about it, but I think had they overly aggressively reacted to the initial round, they would have also been accused of gay bashing.” [Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 10/1/06]

FACT: The issue here is not homosexuality. The issue is sexual harrassment of minors.