Blogger Outing Of Foley Victim

Judd Legum chastises Roger Simon, Glenn Reynolds, and Pajamas Media for linking to an obscure blogger who “outed one of Mark Foley’s victim,” calling their actions “wrong” and the linked post “despicable.” Some of Legum’s commenters suggest that this might even rise to the level of criminality.

While, like Michelle Malkin, I declined to link to the post or otherwise call attention to it even though I learned about it yesterday afternoon, I’m not sure “Wild Bill,” let alone any of those who linked to him, did anything unethical–let alone engaged in “a blatant effort to intimidate a witness in what’s soon to be a Federal case.”

The point of the original post was that one of the “victims” of Foley’s instant messages was a then-18 and now-21-year-old and that ABC falsely lumped them in with messages sent to 16-year-olds. That’s certainly newsworthy and relevant. Further, while my interest in this matter is in the conduct of a middle aged Congressman rather than the degree of consent given by the targets of his affection, there are some legal and moral distinctions between coming on to a grown-up versus an adolescent.

Furthermore, let’s look at the links in question.

Roger L. Simon‘s discussion of the post on his personal site, in its entirety: “Meanwhile, does anyone think it is ironic that so-called progressives who excoriated eavesdropping on terrorists are feasting on the publication of supposedly confidential email and IMs? You can forget about privacy. It no longer exists, if it ever did.”

Simon merely notes that discussions held via email and IM are subject to technical snooping.

Then, a Pajamas Media roundup had this: “Foley’s IM Page Identified? Newsbusters says ABC’s claim that two Foley IM’s datestamped April 2003 to ‘two different boys under the age of 18’ must be false if Passionate America’s detective work is correct.”

Here, PJM notes that a blog that focuses on media criticism is questioning whether ABC, the chief media outlet getting the scoops on the Foley matter, is intentionally misleading the public to hype the story and that this question is based on news that one of the “victims” was of majority. The Newsbusters story itself contained a link the Passionate America post.

Finally, Glenn Reynolds links to the PJM roundup and several others with breaking news and novel observations about the Story of the Week. It’s notable that his post also contains this: “And a look at the blog that started it all. Dirty tricks are dirty, sure — but does this really help the Republicans given that the charges seem to be true?” That link–not to the “Wild Bill” post–is to what we now know to be a blog opened for the sole purpose of laundering leaks about Foley and which has raised questions about the motivation of both the leaker and ABC News. But Reynolds, far from trying to lash out at Foley’s victims, has been quite consistent in saying that Foley is in the wrong.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Congress, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Derrick says:

    You can attempt to justify Glenn’s stance as not lashing out at the victim, but the practical effect is very much the opposite. I understand people’s sometimes justified paranoia about the role of the news media in these stories, but there was absolutely zero reason to put a name to the VICTIM in this case. Despite all of their snooping nothing material changes, for the exchanges started before the kid was 18, so in the end the only thing accomplished by this expedition is outing a kid who wasn’t even the leaker. I think Glenn owes that kid an apology.

  2. James Joyner says:

    But neither Simon nor Reynolds mentioned the victim’s name at all. The former merely noted that privacy is non-existent when communicating over the Internet. Pajamas Media noted, in a long post containing over a dozen links to stories on the Foley scandal, that one of the victims was 18 and Reynolds merely linked that post.

  3. Steven Plunk says:

    If he was over eighteen and the messages went back and forth indicating it was consensual then why are you calling him a victim? What crime has been committed?

  4. James Joyner says:

    I put “victim” in quotes for that reason. There may well still be a crime here or at least a violation of House ethics rules owing to the employer-employee nature of their relationship. There were, though, multiple teens involved, at least some well under 18, and at least one found it creepy enough to tell his parents.

  5. Fersboo says:

    Seems there might be a crime here, on the other side of the aisle. Per flashing sirens on Drudge, IMs may have been a prank.

  6. Anderson says:

    No excuse for publishing the name, it seems to me. It adds zero to the story and risks shaming the ex-page.

  7. If this was an accusation made in a criminal case with a trial pending, there may be a problem. But this is a political “Trial” with the voters as jury in November.

    You can’t hide the accusers from cross-examination, if you expect voters to blame the GOP for this.

  8. James Joyner says:


    I more-or-less agree and that’s why I didn’t go with the original story (although I’ve now indirectly linked to it as part of this post). Still, I don’t know how one reports that an alleged 16-year-old was actually 18 without publishing the name. ABC could do that, I suppose, and have it be believable; an obscure blogger couldn’t.

  9. WWB says:

    As far as I can tell, Think Progress is only connecting Instapundit to the controversy because he’s the biggest blogger in the rightosphere, and if they’re going to discredit the right, they have to start with him.

    So Reynolds linked to pages (I mean the web kind) that had the information, but at no point did he inform readers that those pages had any information relating to the page’s (I mean the congressional kind) identity. Those pages (web, again) all had links to other sites in addition to the Passionate America link.

    And since when does Judd Legum decide who Glenn Reynolds can link to?

  10. just me says:

    I think in general blogs tend to link where and when they get information.

    I think listing the name without the person’s consent is a breach of ethics on the part of the blogger that reports it, but when a blogger gets info they learned elsewhere, I think it is good manners and ethics to link to where you got it from.

    I admit I don’t actually read much at any of the bloggers listed unless there is actually a link from another blog I do read, so I wasn’t even aware that the guys name had been mentioned until this blew up.

    That said, I do think, at least on the issue of media behavior, and media ethics that calling into question whether some of the IMs were to over 18’s is an important issue.

    The fact that the IMs were to a possible adult at least in one case doesn’t make me think any differently regarding Foley’s actions, I think they were still wrong and still unethical-it just means they may not have been ethical.

    Also, I haven’t heard anything about the IMs being a prank, but given the fact that he hasn’t spent much time denying them, I am not so sure I am going to put my eggs in that basket. After all, if somebody faked those IMs and put my name on them, and I hadn’t written them, I would be telling everyone they were fakes-even if I had sent some of the other stuff.

  11. lily says:

    I think you guys are grasping at straws. The young man who was outed is over eighteen now but the email exchanges he had with Foley happened years ago when he was under eighteen. ABC’s emails go back five years.
    The whole outing thing is a way of avoiding the important issue–which Republican staff people, over the last seven years or so, knew about Foley’s harassment of the pages? Because everyone who knew and failed to report is responisble.

  12. lunacy says:

    Look, I dont’ really want to get into this anti- after- 18 business.

    But I do want to mention that I’m a little bothered that there is no expectation out of the other correspondant.

    Does anyone above the age of 12 not realize that these missive are vulnerable?

    Were they paper notes passed back and forth, they’d be vulnerable.

    At what point is the other correspondant responsible for his identity?

    It’s not like someone had to work REALLY HARD and sleuthful to get the truth.

    He got the truth while sitting in his freaking comfy chair.

    PLEASE do not take this to mean that I dismiss Foley’s predatory behavior. But I think this type of thought every time some “anonymous” web user complains that they are really not as anonymous as they though.

    My first thought is, “Well, duuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh.”

  13. James Joyner says:


    None of the people linked above, and certainly not me, are dismissing Foley’s behavior or that of the Republican leadership. Indeed, I called for Hastert’s ouster days ago.

  14. Wayne says:

    I wouldn’t want Foley as my Representative but the libs are missing and/or ignoring the points. The e-mails that were known although a little odd especially in hindsight were not definitive. The IM messages which were disgusting were to a former Page over the age of 18. The libs would have no problem with a Democrat doing any such thing.

    I think all of Congress should open their e-mails for comparison as well as their conduct toward any current of former pages.

    I hope the GOP don’t fall for the media pressure and knee jerk reactions to throw Hastert to the wolves.

  15. Anderson says:

    The e-mails that were known although a little odd especially in hindsight were not definitive.

    Who said they were? The point is that they obviously called for further investigation. Which didn’t happen.

  16. vnjagvet says:

    And the further investigation would have shown what, Anderson? A prank?

    Or that a former page and a congressman were, by mutual consent exchanging an adolescent, pitifully juvenile, lavender-tinged instant message for over an hour.

    Let’s assume they uncovered the im’s. Couldn’t it be construed as “gay bashing” to publicize those “private communications” among consenting adults?

    No crime was committed, nor, under the circumstances was any House rule violated since Foley’s correspondent was no longer a House Page.

    Please give us some facts and not just cant.

  17. lily,

    “…the important issue—which Republican staff people, over the last seven years or so, knew about Foley’s harassment of the pages?”

    Isn’t it equally important to know which Democrats knew, as well? Or is your intent merely partisan?


    “…there are some legal and moral distinctions between coming on to a grown-up versus an adolescent.”

    There are obviously some legal distinctions between 16 and 18, but morally or otherwise the difference is minimal.

  18. jpe says:

    I can’t believe anyone takes Roger Simon seriously.

  19. Papa Ray says:

    People in goverment service should be held to higher standards than us common folk. Just because I had a fling with a 18 y/0 (who told me a lie, that they were 21) doesn’t make me a dirty old man. I might be, but not because of that one time fling. And yes, it was more than computer sex.

    But had I been in government service at the time, I think it should have been grounds for at the very least a dressing down by my boss or even the man on the street, had he found out. Or if it was not the first time that I had done such a thing. I should be fired.

    Notice two things above.

    I didn’t specify male or female in my “fling”
    I didn’t specify what level of government service.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas