Wash. Post falsely claims that Foley was told to "leave pages alone"

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

In a Washington Post article, Charles Babington and Jonathan Weisman claimed that former Rep. Mark Foley was told to "leave pages alone" after Rep. Rodney Alexander reportedly revealed to House leadership that a former page on Alexander's staff had received "over-friendly" emails from Foley. In fact, the same reporters had reported the previous day that Foley had been told only to leave the page who complained alone and "to treat all pages respectfully," suggesting that House leaders expected Foley would have further contact with pages.

In an October 2 Washington Post article, headlined "FBI to Examine Foley's E-mails," staff writers Charles Babington and Jonathan Weisman wrote that former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) was told to "leave pages alone" after Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) reportedly revealed to House leadership that a former page on Alexander's staff had received "over-friendly" emails from Foley. In fact, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the House Page Board who administered a warning to Foley in the wake of 2005 accusations of impropriety, limited the warning only to the specific page in question, telling Foley "to cease all contact with this former House Page," according to a statement published on Shimkus's website. In his statement, Shimkus further asserted that he and the then-Clerk of the House, who manages the page program, had advised Foley "to be especially mindful of his conduct with respect to current and former House Pages," but nowhere in his statement did he say that he or anyone else told Foley to "leave pages alone." In their Post article, Babington and Weisman did not attribute to anyone the purported instruction to "leave pages alone."

A statement from the office of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) that has been widely cited in media reports also suggested that the 2005 order for Foley to cease contact with House pages was limited in scope only to the page in question, saying that "at the request of the parents, Congressman Foley was to immediately cease any communication with the young man."

Babington and Weisman reported the scope of the 2005 warning in a Post article published the previous day, in which they claimed that "Foley had been ordered to cease contact with the boy and to treat all pages respectfully," an assertion that is in line with the statements Hastert and Shimkus have made and that suggests that, contrary to Babington and Weisman's assertion in the October 2 story, House leaders expected that Foley was going to continue having contact with pages -- whom he was to treat "respectfully" -- after the first accusation was made.

The October 2 Post article also asserted that Democrats have "accused Republicans of covering up the matter and allowing Foley to remain as co-chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus instead of launching an inquiry." But the assertion that Babington and Weisman attributed to Democrats -- that Foley was allowed to remain co-chair of the caucus -- is, simply, fact. Moreover, contrary to their suggestion, Democrats are not the only ones raising allegations of a cover-up. According to an October 1 New York Times article, prominent Republican congressmen have made similar accusations. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) was quoted as saying, "Anyone who was involved in the chain of information should come forward and tell when they were told, what they were told and what they did with the information when they got it." Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), also quoted in the Times article, reportedly said that "[i]f they knew or should have known the extent of this problem, they should not serve in leadership." According to USA Today, Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) went further, saying, "If it is found that any member of Congress or staff willingly participated in a cover-up of Mr. Foley's actions, that individual should resign immediately."

From Babington and Weisman's October 2 Washington Post article:

In his letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Hastert (R-Ill.) acknowledged that some of Foley's most sexually explicit instant messages were sent to former House pages in 2003. That was two years before lawmakers say they learned of a more ambiguous 2005 e-mail that led only to a quiet warning to Foley to leave pages alone.

Foley, 52, abruptly resigned Friday, and Democrats have since been hammering Hastert and other GOP leaders. They have accused Republicans of covering up the matter and allowing Foley to remain as co-chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus instead of launching an inquiry and possibly uncovering the raunchier communications.

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