Two of the news media's sources of Mark Foley's sexually explicit instant messages to former House pages said this week that they came forward to expose the Florida congressman's actions, not to help the Democrats in the midterm elections.
But there are indications that Democrats spent months circulating five less insidious Foley e-mails to news organizations before they were finally published by ABC News late last month, which prompted the leaking of the more salacious instant messages. Harper's Magazine said yesterday that it obtained the five e-mails from a Democratic Party operative, albeit in May, long before the election season . . .
The two former pages who revealed the correspondence to ABC News and The Washington Post, however, may never have come forward had Democratic operatives not divulged the five more benign e-mails that Foley had sent to a Louisiana boy . . .
The timing of the e-mails' release appears to be more of a coincidence than an "October surprise," designed to affect the outcome of the elections. It took more than a year for the e-mails to be published because one publication after another decided not to print them.
The one media outlet that did, ABC News, took them public in late September only because the lead reporter, Brian Ross, had put the story on hold for more than a month as he pursued stories commemorating the anniversaries of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
"There was never a plan to undermine the GOP or to destroy Hastert personally, as the speaker has vaingloriously suggested," Ken Silverstein, Washington editor for Harper's, said on the magazine's Web site yesterday. "I know this with absolute certainty because Harper's was offered the story almost five months ago."
Silverstein said his source was a "Democratic operative," the same source that had provided the e-mail exchanges to the St. Petersburg Times in November 2005. Both the magazine and the paper declined to publish a story. But the source "was not working in concert with the national Democratic Party," Silverstein added. "This person was genuinely disgusted by Foley's behavior, amazed that other publications had declined to publish stories about the emails, and concerned that Foley might still be seeking contact with pages" . . .
Weisman's report makes clear that a Democratic operative had in his possession e-mail exchanges between Foley and the House pages more than a year ago in November 2005. In fact, news of Foley being gay and having an interest in young men was first reported by Democratic gay activist Mike Rogers at Blogactive.com in March, 2005. After Foley voted against gays on a vote taken by the House, Rogers wrote on Blogactive the following beneath a photo of Foley:
This is United States Congressman Mark Foley
He voted this week for a law to allow hate groups to fire gay and lesbian people at will
The law he is supporting will overrule ANY local laws on the matter
MARK FOLEY IS GAY
MARK FOLEY WILL BE EXPOSED FOR THE HYPOCRITE HE IS THROUGH A MAIL AND INTERNET CAMPAIGN THAT WILL REACH INTO EVERY HOME IN HIS DISTRICT THIS MAN IS A DANGER TO GAY MEN AND LESBIANS
DO NOT SLEEP WITH THIS MAN
IF HE CRUISES YOU IN THE BATHROOMS OF CONGRESS, IGNORE HIM!
THE NATION MUST BE WARNED ABOUT THIS ABOMINATION IN THE GAY COMMUNITY
Coming Monday . . . Read about how Mark Foley hit on men less than half his age at the Republican convention . . .
The following Monday, Rogers posted a photo of Foley with some young, male interns on the Hill. This post prompted numerous comments focused on the sexual orientation of the interns. "Is this gathering a gay version of 'The Apprentice?,'" one commenter asked. It became more clear a few days later, that Rogers initial post, by his own acknowledgement, was intended as a mere teaser to get additional information to come forward about Foley. A few days later in another post Rogers said, "Yes, I admit that I put up the initial post about Foley a little too quickly . . . oh well." Finally, on March 22, 2005, Rogers reported that he had "confirmed from three separate sources that, in fact, U.S. Rep. Mark Foley is a gay man."
It was a post that Rogers made on June 14, 2005, which focused more closely on Foley's interest in young, male staffers on the Hill. Using the excuse of an online posting on Craigslist from a gay, male intern on the Hill in search of a lunch buddy, Rogers once again posted a photo of Foley with young male interns, along with this comment:
Well, B., we know one place you might start looking. Here's a picture of the intern crowd at a Florida House member's office and I can tell you that at least one of the men in the picture, like you is gay.
And finally, when ABC News first reported on Foley's e-mail exchanges with pages, Roger said, "I am glad to know that I had a role in pushing these emails out there." "I've been working on this story for a few days and am excited it's out there now," he added.
So whether you agree with his tactics or not for outing hypocritcal, gay politicians, Rogers is very up front about his work and his motives. Rogers didn't mention any contacts between Foley and House pages prior to the ABC News report; however, he does suggest that he had advance knowledge of the e-mails in question. He holds no formal position in the Democratic Party.
It is no secret that his blog is widely read on the Hill and by political operatives of both political parties, particularly as he has become more aggressive at outing not only politicians, but the staffers who work for them as well. It does raise the question why, if this sort of information has been out there for such a long time, why others on the Hill, Democrats included, weren't asking for at least an ethics inquiry into Foley's behavior long before ABC News broke this story.
Weisman's story today does lead credence to the view that Democrats were more interested in capitalizing politically on the scandal than protected the House pages. That still doesn't excuse the House Republicans' failure to properly investigate allegations of Foley's behavior that were brought to their attention long before the ABC News report aired.