In a report on Rep. Tom Reynolds's recent press conference about the Mark Foley scandal, during which Reynolds refused a reporter's request to send children attending the press conference from the room, CNN's Mary Snow uncritically aired a clip from Roll Call columnist Mary Ann Akers alleging that Reynolds refused the request because he was attempting to send a message that he is "an advocate for children."
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During the October 3 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, correspondent Mary Snow uncritically aired a clip of Roll Call columnist Mary Ann Akers's assertion that Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-NY) was "struggling to make the point that he's an advocate for children" when he refused a reporter's request to send children attending his October 2 press conference on his behalf from the room. The reporter asked Reynolds whether he would "mind asking the children to leave the room" so that they could have a "frank discussion" about an "adult topic," which the reporter stated "doesn't seem appropriate to me." The topic in question apparently concerned what Reynolds and other members of the Republican House leadership knew about explicit messages and other inappropriate electronic communications former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) allegedly sent a 16-year-old former congressional page. CNN aired neither the reporter's question nor Reynolds's response, with Snow simply reporting that Reynolds refused the request and stating that by refusing, "[p]olitical observers say [Reynolds] was sending a message." CNN then aired a video clip of Akers making her comment.
Although CNN viewers did not see the exchange, after the reporter asked Reynolds to send the children from the room, Reynolds responded, "Well, I'll take your questions, I'm not gonna ask any of my supporters to leave." Later, a reporter similarly asked -- again in a clip CNN did not air -- "Do you think it's appropriate for [the children] to be listening to this subject matter, though?" to which Reynolds again replied, "Sir, I'm happy to answer your questions."
In late 2005, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) reportedly learned of the series of emails allegedly exchanged between Foley and an underage male former page Alexander had sponsored. The page reportedly forwarded the emails to Alexander's office, stringing the word "sick" together 13 times to describe them. Alexander's chief of staff then reportedly contacted the office of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) about the emails, describing them as "over friendly." Hastert's office reportedly directed Alexander's office to contact the House clerk about the matter. In a September 30 statement, Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, indicated that he asked to see the content of the emails after Alexander approached him in the spring of 2006, but was denied by Alexander, who, according to Reynolds, "told me that the parents didn't want the matter pursued." Reynolds claimed he told Hastert of the conversation he had with Alexander regarding Foley's alleged emails (Hastert's office has claimed that Hastert does not recall this conversation, but "has no reason to dispute Congressman Reynold's recollection").
Further, several weblogs, including AMERICAblog.com, have noted that questions have been raised about Reynolds's chief of staff Kirk Fordham's involvement in the Foley scandal. Fordham reportedly resigned from Reynolds's staff on October 4.
Unlike CNN, Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did air the exchange. From the October 3 edition of the show:
JON STEWART (host): Now, there are other ways to deflect attention from this scandal. For instance, Republican Congressman Thomas Reynolds from New York: He was one of a handful of congressmen who knew about the emails in the fall of 2005, but that didn't stop minors from defending -- or at least shielding -- Reynolds from questions about it yesterday.
[begin video clip]
REPORTER: Congressman, do you mind asking the children to leave the room, so we can have a frank discussion on this, because it's an adult topic, and it just doesn't seem appropriate to me.
REYNOLDS: Well, I'll take your questions, I'm not gonna ask any of my supporters to leave.
[end video clip]
STEWART: There's nothing that you can ask me about this congressional pedophilia Internet masturbation scandal that you can't say in front of my supporters, like 4-year-old Dimples McGee here. Isn't that right, Dimples? Go ahead, talk about jerking off right in front of him. I don't care. Anyway, I'm sure the kids are there for a valid reason.
[begin video clip]
REPORTER: Who are the children? Who are the children?
REYNOLDS: Pardon me?
REPORTER: Who are these children?
REYNOLDS: Well, they're -- a number of them are from the community.
[end video clip]
STEWART: Yes, that community? Exploit-o-town. In Congressman Foley's defense, I'm sure it's the liquor talking.
From the October 3 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
SNOW: Congressman Tom Reynolds is feeling the repercussions in upstate New York. Reynolds will be getting some support from first lady Laura Bush tomorrow on the campaign trail, but the question is: Will it be enough to quell the controversy now clouding his re-election?
Surrounded by children at his Monday news conference and dogged by criticism that he could have done more months ago to stop questionable emails between Florida Congressman Mark Foley and a teenage boy who worked as a page, Congressman Tom Reynolds of New York went on the defensive. In his hometown district in upstate New York, he insisted he did all he could by informing House Speaker Dennis Hastert about the emails last spring, a conversation Hastert says he doesn't recall but doesn't deny.
REYNOLDS [video clip]: I did what most people would do in a workplace. I heard something, I took it to my supervisor.
SNOW: At one point, a reporter asked if the children should step out of the room, but Reynolds declined. Political observers say he was sending a message.
AKERS: Clearly, Tom Reynolds is struggling to make the point that he's an advocate for children and that he was involved in no cover-up in trying to protect a Republican incumbent as opposed to protecting children.
SNOW: And now, Reynolds has to protect himself politically. He is trying to win re-election against Democrat Jack Davis. Plus, he is the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.