In a report on the recent resignation of Kirk Fordham, the former chief of staff of Rep. Tom Reynolds, Fox News' Carl Cameron mimicked Dennis Hastert's characterization of alleged emails from then-Rep. Mark Foley to underage male former congressional pages as "overly friendly." As Media Matters for America has noted, Hastert has described the alleged emails as "over friendly" to justify why the House Republican leadership did not investigate Foley's behavior when it was first informed of the alleged emails.
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During a report on the recent resignation of Kirk Fordham, the former chief of staff of Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), on the October 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron described as "overly friendly" emails allegedly sent by then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to underage male former congressional pages in 2005. Reporting Reynolds's defense of his actions in the Foley case, Cameron stated that "Reynolds says he acted appropriately, alerting superiors in the spring when he learned of Foley's overly friendly emails to former pages." Cameron's description of the emails as "overly friendly" mimicked House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) characterization of the alleged emails. As Media Matters for America has noted, Hastert has described the alleged emails as "over friendly" to justify why the House Republican leadership did not investigate Foley's behavior when it was first informed of the alleged emails. But several experts in the field have suggested that Foley's alleged emails go beyond "overly friendly"; for example, one psychiatry expert told the Los Angeles Times that "they do in fact raise a red flag." In one of the emails, Foley allegedly wrote of an underage male page: "[H]es [sic] in really great shape."
As Media Matters has documented, several conservatives and Republicans have objected to Hastert's characterization of the emails as "over friendly" and have argued that they should have provoked deeper scrutiny from House Republican leaders when they first came to light. For example, on the October 2 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, conservative commentator Bay Buchanan stated: "That email they call an 'overly friendly email' -- that had predator stamped all over it. No one in this country can suggest otherwise."
Moreover, the Los Angeles Times reported in an October 5 article that, according to "psychiatrists and other clinical experts on sexual misconduct," Foley's alleged emails "were classic examples of the tactics predatory adults use to approach young people and called for close and immediate examination." Dr. Paul Appelbaum, the director of the Psychiatry, Law and Ethics division in the department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, was quoted in the Times article as saying that the emails "do in fact raise a red flag." The experts interviewed by the Times all criticized House congressional leaders' response to the emails:
The experts said that congressional leaders' response to the problem -- talking to Foley and telling him to stop -- seldom work in such cases.
"Just saying 'don't do that' isn't really enough," said Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, a Baltimore psychiatrist and former president of the American Psychiatric Assn. "You can't just turn your back on it -- you have to open up that can of worms. There may be something there or there may not be, but you have to open it up."
Instead of investigating, senior officials of the House confronted Foley in private and demanded that he break off communication with the teenage boy, a former page from Louisiana.
In the e-mails from 2005 that were first brought to the GOP leadership's attention, Foley asked the former page what he would like for his birthday and requested a picture of him. Appelbaum said such questions could be interpreted as "grooming," a behavior pattern in which an adult sexually interested in a minor first tries to establish a relationship.
"They represent the kind of preliminary grooming that sexual predators often engage in before approaching a victim more directly for a sexual relationship, and hence should have been a warning," Appelbaum said.
"Taken as a whole, [the emails] show an adult man of prominent position evidencing a peculiarly personal interest in a boy about whom he knows very little. Taken together, they suggest someone who is trying to establish a personal relationship that ought to at least raise some questions," he said.
The failure to investigate sooner raises questions about House leaders' commitment to protect teenagers in the congressional page program from unwanted advances by lawmakers or adult staffers, said Gary Schoener, a clinical psychologist in Minneapolis and an expert on sexual misconduct cases involving professionals and public institutions.
"It's a very, very bad model for everybody to think that you have to raise a big fuss to get attention and that simply reporting something isn't good enough," Schoener said.
From the October 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
CAMERON: His name is Kirk Fordham, and he has resigned as the chief of staff for New York Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds, he -- only after just about a year on the job. In fact, Fordham had been Mark Foley's chief of staff for a decade up until December of 2003, and he says that in early 2004, he had a -- more than one conversation with the House Speaker's office, Dennis Hastert's office, suggesting that Mark Foley had some troubling behavior and seeking intervention. That is more than a year before any House Republican leader has of yet -- has as yet acknowledged even a hint that Foley had become a problem.
[begin video clip]
CAMERON: Reynolds held a news conference with New York Governor George Pataki. The first question he faced was about his chief of staff's resignation.
REYNOLDS: I accepted his resignation. He felt that his existence as my chief of staff would be a distraction. He's done nothing wrong, in his view, but thinks it's a distraction.
CAMERON: The heavily perspiring four-term congressman confirmed and condemned that his former aide tried to negotiate the suppression of Foley's X-rated Internet communications disclosed last Friday.
REYNOLDS: I was not by any means feeling that it is an appropriate action to negotiate with a news outlet.
CAMERON: The New York incumbent chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, charged with electing House Republicans. He acknowledged urging Foley to seek re-election this spring, but suggested he may not have known at the time about Foley's troubling behavior, even though his former aide said he'd warned Hastert's office a year earlier about Foley.
REYNOLDS: He had broke no laws and had no implication at all that I was aware of; and when I talked to him, it might have been prior to even the fact of when I knew about the fact that there was a email, which I reported to the speaker.
CAMERON: Reynolds says he acted appropriately, alerting superiors in the spring when he learned of Foley's overly friendly emails to former pages, then Friday, when he learned of the salacious communication and demanded Foley's resignation.
REYNOLDS: I'm taking responsibility for what I did. The first set of emails -- I reported it to the speaker. Second set of emails -- I worked to get the resignation of Mark Foley.
CAMERONS: Reynolds denies any negative impact on GOP re-election hopes.
REYNOLDS: In no way do I look at this as an impact on the campaign committee or my re-election unless I'm not able to talk about the issues of creating jobs and cutting taxes.
CAMERON: But issues for the Reynolds' campaign have been utterly eclipsed by the Foley scandal. He's facing a tough challenge now from Democrat Jack Davis, a millionaire businessman who lost to Reynolds two years ago. Davis has been largely silent on the Foley scandal, but yesterday was quoted as saying: "I want to beat Reynolds on my issues, but of course it's nice to have him screw up. When Reynolds heard about the problems with the pages he should have shown due diligence and investigated. This is all about power and all about money, and it stinks."
[end video clip]
CAMERON: And the race has tightened here in Upstate New York with Mr. Davis and Mr. Reynolds now statistically tied in some of the more recent polls. The speaker's office -- Dennis Hastert -- today putting out a statement about the revelation from Mr. Fordham, saying that it has been referred to the ethics panel, and it will do what is needed to investigate this matter and protect the integrity of the House. Jim.
JIM ANGLE (host): Carl, thank you.