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Foley scandal puts pressure on House speaker, raises Republican fears of more bad news to come

Foley scandal puts pressure on House speaker, raises Republican fears of more bad news to come

The daily disclosures about former Congressman Mark Foley's salacious Internet exchanges with teenage congressional interns has left the top Republican in the House of Representatives fighting to hold onto his job and party members worried that the scandal will damage their chances of keeping control of Congress in the November midterm elections.
The House page scandal engulfing Foley and House Republican leaders entered its sixth day Wednesday with House Speaker Dennis Hastert working to hold onto his job. Republican lawmakers and conservative activists fear the foibles of other politicians may be exposed.
"People are very, very concerned," Rep. Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican, said Tuesday night. "I think there are going to be more disclosures."
"We have heard rumors that other, similar activity has occurred involving additional congressmen and will be released prior to the November elections," said the Arlington Group, a coalition of 70 pro-family conservative groups.
Republicans are increasingly nervous about their November election prospects. Hastert is working to contain the fallout and retain his job as the scandal dominates the 24-hour news media and the Internet blogosphere.
"I'm not going to do that," Hastert said when asked Tuesday by conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh whether he would quit his post.
President George W. Bush, speaking at a Stockton, California, elementary school on Tuesday, said he was disgusted by the Foley revelations and voiced support for Hastert.
"I know that he wants all the facts to come out," the president said.
Conservatives debated whether Hastert should resign over his handling of the controversy.
Activist Richard A. Viguerie called for Hastert to step down. "The fact that they just walked away from this, it sounds like they were trying to protect one of their own members rather than these young boys," Viguerie said on Fox News.
Yet the Christian Coalition said it was standing behind Hastert, and Arizona Republican Rep. John Shadegg circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter in support of Hastert, saying calls for the speaker to resign were "unwarranted and fundamentally unfair."
Hastert says he first heard details of the Foley matter last Friday when the story was breaking. The No. 2 House Republican, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, and House Republican campaign chair Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York said they had spoken with Hastert about a complaint concerning a former page from Louisiana last spring after being told about it by Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Louisiana Republican, who had sponsored the teen.
Hastert sought to blame Democrats for leaking sexually explicit computer instant messages between Foley and former pages from 2003.
"Democrats have ... put this thing forward to try to block us," Hastert told Limbaugh.
"It's absolutely not true," countered House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
ABC News, which first reported on initial online exchanges from Foley that were questionable but not graphic, says sexually explicit messages reported last Friday were provided by former pages after its initial report Thursday.
ABC News said Tuesday it had obtained additional instant messages.
"Can I have a good kiss goodnight," Foley was said to have messaged in one. A boy responded with cyber symbols and "kiss."
In another message, Foley invited the teenager to his Capitol Hill town house "for a few drinks" even though he knew the boy was under the legal drinking age. "We may need to drink at my house so we dont get busted," Foley messaged.
Foley's attorney, David Roth, said at a news conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday that he had no reason to believe that Foley "ever had teenage boys at his house to have alcohol."
Roth said Foley, 52, had himself been molested between the ages of 13 and 15 by a clergyman but added that Foley "does not blame the trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate e-mails" and instant messages. "He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct."
Roth insisted Foley never had had sexual contact with a minor. He said the former Florida congressman, who had kept his sexual orientation private, wanted people now to know that he is gay.
The House ethics committee, meanwhile, scheduled its first meeting on Foley's actions for Thursday, in closed session. The House voted last Friday to direct the ethics panel to inquire into the matter.
Foley resigned abruptly on Friday after being confronted with the 2003 instant message exchanges.
The FBI announced over the weekend it was opening a preliminary investigation into the matter.
Separately, Kirk Fordham, a Reynolds aide who was a longtime former aide to Foley, told The Associated Press of counseling Foley on Friday on how to deal with the developing story.
Fordham said when he learned the details of some of the instant messages, he confronted Foley.
"I said: 'Are these authentic?' and he said 'probably' and he confirmed that they were likely his instant messages," Fordham said.
Reynolds immediately said Foley had to resign and Republican campaign aides drafted a resignation letter.
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Associated Press writers David Espo and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-05 02:48 GMT+08:00