Illinois media getting beat, spun on congressional sex predator story *** Updated x6 ***
Sunday, Oct 1, 2006
If you’ve been following the Congressman Mark Foley resignation scandal, you’ve notice that there is a definite Illinois angle. The Florida Republican abruptly resigned after e-mails and other Internet communications emerged that more than just sugggested he was a child sex predator.
If you’ve confined yourself to Illinois media outlets, you probably believe that all is well and that everybody mostly did their jobs (if you’ve seen coverage at all). You’d be wrong.
The Tribune and the State Journal-Register both reported Sunday that US House Speaker Denny Hastert and his office were unaware that one of his Republican members was an accused pedophile until last week.
Aides to the speaker say he was not aware until last week of inappropriate behavior by Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who resigned on Friday after portions of racy electronic messages between him and current and former underage congressional pages became public. But the aides conceded they could not be conclusive on the timing.
Hastert’s office said no one in his office was made aware of the sexually explicit messages until press and Internet reports surfaced last week.
That reporting appears to be inaccurate.
* Roll Call:
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) issued a statement Saturday in which he said that he had informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of allegations of improper contacts between then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and at least one former male page, contradicting earlier statements from Hastert.
* Speaker Hastert then issued a press release and this non-denial denial was near the end:
Congressman Tom Reynolds in a statement issued today indicates that many months later, in the spring of 2006, he was approached by Congressman Alexander who mentioned the Foley issue from the previous fall. During a meeting with the Speaker he says he noted the issue which had been raised by Alexander and told the Speaker that an investigation was conducted by the Clerk of the House and Shimkus. While the Speaker does not explicitly recall this conversation, he has no reason to dispute Congressman Reynold’s recollection that he reported to him on the problem and its resolution.
* And RollCall claims Hastert’s office was informed right away.
At least four Republican House Members, one senior GOP aide and a former top officer of the House were aware of the allegations about Foley that prompted the initial reporting regarding his e-mail contacts with a 16-year-old House page. They include: Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), as well as a senior aide to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl. […]
* This morning, the AP reported that Hastert was finally admitting that his office knew about Foley’s dark secret, but claimed he didn’t know the extent of the problem.
The office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who earlier said he’d learned about the e-mails only last week, acknowledged that aides referred the matter to the authorities last fall. They said they were only told the messages were “over-friendly.”
And what about Congressman John Shimkus, the chairman of the US House page program? The Hastert press release, which is billed as a timeline of events, claims this:
The Clerk asked to see the text of the email. Congressman Alexander’s office declined citing the fact that the family wished to maintain as much privacy as possible and simply wanted the contact to stop. The Clerk asked if the email exchange was of a sexual nature and was assured it was not. Congressman Alexander’s Chief of Staff characterized the email exchange as over-friendly.
So, a little talking to and a gentleman’s warning is considered “corrective action” in Washington, DC? This is the best evidence yet of how screwed up the capital has become.
But, wait, there’s more.
* This is a representative example of what GOP Congressman Shimkus’ spokesman has been telling the press.
Shimkus “did not see personally any e-mail a year ago when he dealt with the issue,” Tomaszewski said. “He was only told of the one e-mail that came out first, which references, ‘How are you doing after the hurricane?’ and, ‘Send me a picture.’”
* But the Post-Dispatch talked to Shimkus himself, and the congressman had a different story to tell.
Shimkus, who serves as board chairman for the House page program, read the emails, in which Foley asked about the boyâ€™s well-being in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, what he wanted for his birthday, and for a photograph. (The boy was from Louisiana and had returned to his home state.)
My own thought is that the story was probably downplayed when it was initially mentioned to Speaker Hastert. He does bear ultimate responsibility as Speaker for this mess, however.
The behavior of Congressman Shimkus, the chairman of the House page program, is far more inexcusable. Parents send their kids off to DC for the page program believing that our nation’s leaders will make sure of their safety. Shimkus completely failed those parents and totally failed his official responsibilities The fact that he never even told the minority party leadership of the page program about the incident suggests he was either clueless about his responsibilities to those kids or there was a partisan cover-up, or both.
An example of the consequences of Shimkus’ inaction and silence was that the Metro East Republican allowed the alleged boy-lover Foley to continue chairing the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. At the very least, Shimkus should immediately resign his page program chairmanship.
Clearly, more answers are needed. And, clearly, the newspapers in this state and particularly in Shimkus’ own district need to get off their kiesters and work this story a whole lot harder.
[Hat tips all over the place, and yes I’m aware there’s more to this story, including the fact that the US House Majority Leader changed his story. After initially claiming to the Washington Post that he told Speaker Hastert of the allegations, he later said he did no such thing. You can find a timeline here.]
[Also, you can comment now, but, as always, comments won’t appear until Monday so I don’t have to spend my weekends monitoring the blog.]
*** UPDATE *** Roll Call:
As of Saturday evening, nearly a dozen House GOP lawmakers and staffers have acknowledged that they knew of the initial batch of non-sexually explicit messages from Foley to a 16-year-old former House page, some of them for a year or more. These include Hastert; Majority Leader John Boehner (Ohio); National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.); Reps. Rodney Alexander (La.) and John Shimkus (Ill.); Mike Stokke, the Speakerâ€™s deputy chief of staff; Ted Van Der Meid, Hastertâ€™s counsel; Paula Nowakowski, Boehnerâ€™s chief of staff; Jeff Trandahl, the former Clerk of the House; and another Hastert aide and Alexanderâ€™s chief of staff, according to public statements and GOP insiders.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Hotline Blog:
I’d like to know the answer to those two questions as well.
*** UPDATE 3 *** The president of the Page Alumni Association says pages were warned about Foley way back in 2001.
A Republican staff member warned Congressional pages five years ago to watch out for Congressman Mark Foley, according to a former page. […]
If the pages knew, why didn’t Congressman Shimkus know? Or did he hear the rumors as well?
*** UPDATE 4 *** The Palm Beach Post, in the disgraced ex-congressman Foley’s former district, reports that Foley’s affinity for the youngsters was “widely known.”
Congressional staff members who asked not to be identified said it was widely known among Hill staffers and some House leaders that Foley had been engaging in inappropriate conduct and language with young aides
*** UPDATE 5 *** I’ve created an automated IceRocket news feed so you can follow the developments:
*** UPDATE 6 *** From the official farewell to the departing page class of 2001-2002:
Mr. SHIMKUS. I thank my colleague. Now someone who spends a lot of time with you also, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Foley), would like to say a thank you.
It’s enough to turn your stomach. And since it was broadcast on C-SPAN, it’s all on tape. Luckily for Shimkus, his opponent doesn’t have the money to put this video into a TV ad.
[Comments now closed. Head to Monday’s post to comment, please.]