Discussing the recent resignation of former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) with host Chris Wallace on the October 1 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Fox News political analyst and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) claimed that House Republicans would have "been accused of gay bashing" if they had "overly aggressively reacted" to Foley's allegedly inappropriate email communications with a 16-year-old male congressional page when House Republicans reportedly first learned of Foley's actions in late 2005. As Media Matters for America has noted, the House Republican leadership -- including House Majority Leader John Boehner (OH), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (NY), and a senior aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (IL) -- has reportedly known for months about Foley's emails. Wallace then asked: "How would it have been gay bashing?" Gingrich replied: "Because it was a male-male relationship," adding that "there was no proof" that Foley was a "predatory person."
Gingrich suggested that House Republican leaders would have been responding "overly aggressively" if they took action against Foley after reading his alleged emails because "the actual notes were relatively innocuous, there was nothing sexual in those notes." As the weblog Talking Points Memo has noted, House leaders have acknowledged that Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) had seen the emails; the blog also noted a report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said he and the clerk of the House had also seen the emails, while a Shimkus spokesman said Shimkus hadn't seen the emails. Boehner, Reynolds, and Hastert acknowledge being aware of the emails, but not having seen them directly. In the emails, Foley allegedly asked the page to "send me an email pic of you," remarked that a different page was "in really great shape," and asked the page "what do you want for your birthday" and "how old are you now?"
Further, if House leaders had investigated further, they might also have uncovered sexually explicit instant messages Foley reportedly sent to a House page in 2003.
From the October 1 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: Before we get to the Clinton interview, let's start, as we always do, with the latest news. It now turns out that, as we said, top Republican House leaders knew for months that Congressman Mark Foley sent inappropriate emails to at least one 16-year-old male page. Speaker Gingrich, did House Republican leaders do all they should have?
GINGRICH: Well, I think if you look at what they actually knew, which was that the family did not want anyone involved and the actual notes were relatively innocuous, there was nothing sexual in those notes. They had him counseled. They had the head of the page program, Congressman Shimkus, talk to him very directly. And I think they thought that it was over. The newest incident only surfaced when ABC News interviewed Foley and he resigned within two hours, or I think the House leaders would have moved to expel him.
WALLACE: But during all those months they left Foley in the House Republican leadership. They left him as the head of the congressional caucus dealing with exploited children. No second thoughts about that?
GINGRICH: Well, you could have second thoughts about it, but I think had they overly aggressively reacted to the initial round, they would also have been accused of gay bashing. I mean, the original notes had no sexual innuendo and the parents did not want any action taken.
WALLACE: How would it have been gay bashing?
GINGRICH: Because it was a male-male relationship. And they had no -- there was no proof, there was nothing that I know of in that initial round that would have led you to say in a normal circumstance that this is a predatory person.