Claims to fame: Republican congressman from Florida; former closet case; Internet predator
Moral apex: He used to be just another hypocritical closet case (i.e., gay Republican, a.k.a. chicken working for Colonel Sanders), outed years ago by Kurt Wolfe — but Foley’s have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too mentality is nothing compared to the bombshell dropped by ABC News in late September, 2006: During 2005, Foley had been sending sexually explicit emails and instant messages to at least one then-16-year-old congressional page.
Worse yet: Foley’s teeny-bopper come-ons did not begin or end with that one page; his “over friendly” cybering went back at least eight years prior. (He was also turned away, drunk, from the House pages’ dorm late one night in 2002 or 2003.)
Twinkie defense: Foley said he was sexually abused, as a youngster, by a priest. (Funny, but we know lots of childhood sexual abuse survivors who didn’t grow up to be pedophiles.)
Mel Gibson Defense: Foley also said he was an alcoholic, and immediately checked into rehab* after the scandal broke.
Height of hypocrisy: We used to think it was his vote in favor of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. Now we know different: Foley was one of Congress’s most fervent proponents of protecting children from sexual predators — especially online sexual predators, even serving as chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. He also worked closely with John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted” — who was “completely heartbroken, sad, and absolutely appalled” at the revelation of Foley’s teen-chasing.
But who’s the biggest hypocrite? Not Foley! The biggest hypocrites are the Republican leaders who knew about Foley’s behavior for years, and did virtually nothing about it. In 2001, a Republican staffer warned congressional pages to “watch out” for Foley, and Kirk Fordham, chief of staff to House Republican Campaign Committee chairman Tom Reynolds (R-NY) and former chief of staff to Foley, says he spoke with Scott Palmer, chief of staff to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.); Palmer says he never heard anything such thing from Fordham.
However, in the Fall of 2005, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), informed Hastert personally of Foley’s most recent misconduct. The issue bounced around for most of a year, during which time then-House Clerk (and page administrator) Jeff Trandhahl and House Page Board chairman Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) simply told Foley to knock it off.
In the Spring of 2006, Alexander approached House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) about the Foley matter. Boehner (who as of this writing can’t seem to keep his story straight) went to Hastert, and then came back and told Alexander that Hastert said that the matter had been “resolved.”
(Other Republicans who knew of Foley’s activities — and kept their mouths shut — include Ginny Brown-Waite [R-Fla.].)
In July, 2006, a grassroots ethics group somehow obtained Foley’s emails, and forwarded them to the FBI — which concluded that Foley hadn’t broken any laws.
That might have been the end of it had the emails not fallen into the hands of ABC News, which blew the lid off the story on September 28, 2006. The emails weren’t sexually explicit — but the instant messages, which came to light the very next day, were.
Of course, the GOP accused Democrats of launching an “October surprise”; i.e., exposing Foley just before the 2006 midterm elections. However, it’s said that the leak to ABC came from within Reynolds’ office — making the timing simply serendipitous. “The Democrats,” wrote Evan Thomas in Newsweek, “seemed happy to just get out of the way and let the Republicans devour themselves.”
(Did Fordham leak the instant messages? It’s very unlikely; he tried to buy Foley some protection by offering an exclusive interview to ABC if ABC agreed not to reveal the contents of the messages. ABC refused.)
End result: Foley finally admitted he was gay, and resigned from office.
Collateral damage: Hastert scapegoated Fordham, forcing him to resign from his job as Reynolds’ chief staffer. Fordham, by the way, is openly gay.
One more resignation: Trandhahl resigned as Clerk of the House in November, 2005. Nobody knows why. Trandhahl, by the way, is openly gay.
Our verdict: We think Foley’s a jerk (a sick jerk), but in all fairness, there’s no proof he ever touched the kid — and what’s more, the age of consent in Washington, D.C., is 16. So, technically, on the first incident reported in the news, Foley didn’t break any laws — but a (then-) 51-year-old U.S. congressman abusing his position of power to come on sexually to a 16-year-old page is definitely sick, and wrong, wrong, wrong.
On the other hand, Foley’s sexual misconduct with underage boys goes back at least ten years… and we’d bet good money his conduct went far beyond emails and IMing.
Memorable quotes, pre-scandal:
Where I have to draw the line is using children for the excitement of those more mature people who should know the difference and know better.
. . .
[A] rabbi from Boca Raton … [b]asically enticed a young person via the Internet to having a sexual relationship. The Internet is a very powerful tool. It’s a positive tool for education, but it also has some unintended consequences.
. . .
…I look at this more from a child-endangerment aspect. It’s not necessarily that we have committed the crime already and can find reasonable cause to prosecute. My concern is it’s luring people into the likelihood that they become victims themselves. I think that’s a misuse of youth and I think it’s a way to soil their future…
Memorable quotes from various IM exchanges with underage boys, 2003-2005:
Maf54 (7:37:27 PM): how my favorite young stud doing
. . .
Maf54 (7:47:11 PM): good so your getting horny
. . .
Maf54 (7:48:00 PM): did you spank it this weekend yourself
. . .
Maf54 (7:58:37 PM): well I have aa totally stiff wood now
. . .
Maf54 (8:08:31 PM): get a ruler and measure it for me
. . .
Maf54 (8:58:15 PM): we may need to drink at my house so we dont get busted
. . .
Maf54: Do I make you a little horny?
The hypocrisy of the Republicans is that they have more concern for a gay man who misbehaves than for fair treatment of gays who don’t misbehave.
— Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to Newsweek
October 4, 2006
You know that [Foley was gay] was always the issue on Capitol Hill and I think that his response in the past was that “That’s my business and would you ask President Bush or would you ask, you know, Chairman Harry Reid if he was straight?” I think in the 21st Century people have a right to keep their sexuality, you know, to themselves. But, you know, making overt advances to 16-year-old boys from a 52-year-old man is nothing about gay. It’s about pedophilia.
— John Walsh to Larry King
October 3, 2006
There are plenty of theories about why the [Republican] leadership did not take the matter more seriously. In the Washington power culture, incumbents are generally protected from the consequences of their own actions. That’s especially true in a Congress where one party has ruled both houses for years; the concept of meaningful oversight has been essentially forgotten. And in a party ruled largely by conservatives, and built with the help of evangelicals, many of whom view homosexuality as unnatural and homosexual acts as sinful, leaders may also have had a special reluctance to scrutinize the sexual behavior of their colleagues or their staffs.
Inevitably, Washington was rife with nasty rumors of a “Velvet Mafia” of gay Hill staffers conspiring to protect each other. But Foley’s homosexuality should not be the central issue in the scandal. His wrongdoing was to sexually prey on teenagers. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with sexual predation, and to suggest otherwise is to dredge up ugly stereotypes that are factually wrong (according to a 2000 Justice Department study, 97 percent of adults who sexually assault 12- to 17-year-old children are male—and 90 percent of their victims are female). Nonetheless, it is relevant that Foley is both homosexual and a Republican.
. . .
In the end, the Republicans may not be able to escape the irony of the Foley scandal. In 2004, the GOP helped get President George W. Bush re-elected by turning out the base, especially the Christian right, to vote for state bans on gay marriage. In 2006, the GOP may lose control of Congress because it didn’t try harder to investigate a gay congressman who was also a sexual predator.
It’s funny how we never hear a word about that “hetero mafia” protecting the even longer list of philandering, college-girl skirt-chasing straight members of Congress.
Q Tony, has the President talked to Speaker Hastert since this whole thing started?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Has he asked to talk with him?
MR. SNOW: No. No.
Q Why not?
MR. SNOW: Just hasn’t.
Q He’s not curious about his explanation or how he’s handled it so far?
MR. SNOW: No.
— White House Press Secretary Tony Snow
Press Briefing, October 5, 2006
Completely unsurprising fact: Foley has (or at least had) a longtime partner; sources close to Foley say that when he cheated on his partner with other grownups, he preferred men who were also partnered, so they’d both have “something to lose.”
See also: Jim Kolbe, Jim McCrery.
Suggested Bible reading for Mr. Foley:
Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.
— Isaiah 48:6
Suggested Bible reading for Mr. Hastert and all the other enablers:
But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.
But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.
— Jeremiah 7:23-24
Foley’s “rehab” leads us to something completely unrelated to the Foley page scandal — but may be even creepier: the idea that a Scientologist may have been elected to the U.S. Congress.
As noted by Wonkette‘s “Scientology Investigator”:
Foley sent his “Gone to Detox Mansion” fax from Clearwater, Florida. Are there any rehab joints there that aren’t run by Scientology? Remember, that’s the same cult that says they can “cure” homosexuality…
That would mean nothing by itself — but for Foley’s involvement with Scientology dating back to 1999… or earlier. Here, for example, is a blurb — scrubbed since the page scandal broke — from a Church of Scientology site lauding Foley for a speech he gave to the Clearwater Business Association (a Scientology front organization) in 2003:
: “This was quite a shindig that included 150 handpicked quests from Clearwater to meet with Foley. And it was staged within the opulent ballroom at the Scientology-owned Fort Harrison Hotel.
“Scientology crowed on its website about its ability to defeat legislation pending in Florida regarding psychiatry, their ongoing nemesis, concerning prescription drugs.”
And that’s just one of many documented encounters between Foley and Scientology. If Foley’s not a Scientologist, he’s certainly into Scientology. The question is: How far is Scientology into him?