GOP Leaders Knew About Foley Page Solicitations for Months

The resignation of Rep. John Foley over soliciting gay sex from underage pages has taken an even more bizarre turn. It seems that House Republican leaders knew about Foley’s conduct for months.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate “contact” between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.

It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged online exchanges between Foley and the boy.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took the House floor last night to demand an investigation into the Foley matter. But Boehner headed her off, calling on the House to refer the matter to the ethics committee, which the House promptly voted unanimously to do.


Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), who sponsored the page from his district, said he had learned of some of the online exchanges from a reporter some months ago and passed on the information to Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Republican campaign organization, the Associated Press reported. Alexander said he did not pursue the matter further because “his parents said they didn’t want me to do anything.” [emphasis mine]

John Aravosis alleges that the leadership knew even earlier and asks:

Tell me why Denny Hastert shouldn’t be forced to immediately resign. They left your kids with this man AFTER they knew what he was doing. They let him stay in the GOP leadership. They let him remain the chair of the child sex offender caucus. Jesus Christ.

Fair questions all. Due process might explain keeping things close to the vest and exercising every caution in making sure Foley was in fact guilty of this conduct before letting word get out. I’m at a loss to explain why he was allowed to remain in charge of making laws to protect our children. Absent some incredibly good explanation, Hastert and Boehner need to go.

Previously: Mark Foley Quits Congress After Propositioning Boy Pages

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Congress, LGBTQ Issues, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,
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. RiverRat says:

    The teen was 16 at the time of Congressman Foley’s advances. I understand he lives in FL., was appointed from GA. and obviously worked as a page in DC. The age of consent in all 3 jurisdictions is 16, so stop calling him underage.

    If, as it appears, these advances occurred after the completion of the teen’s term as a page there are no ethical violations under House rules.

    Sleazy, reprehensible, foolish and indicative of moral turpitude, yes. Illegal or formally unethical, probably not.

    If so, a quiet cease and desist reprimand was probably appropriate given indications the teen and/or the parents apparently chose not to pursue charges and the advances occurred after the Page had left congress.

  2. McGehee says:

    If it’s true the leadership knew about this half a year ago, and if it’s true they didn’t lean on him to stop, Aravosis has a point.

    I’m not sure the record is clear, though, that this is the case. Has any information surfaced that Foley continued with this disgusting behavior after Boehner says he learned of it?

    And given RiverRat’s point, I’m not sure anything more than “Stop it!” would have been warranted from the leadership, except maybe a strong hint that a quiet return to the private sector would be healthy for all concerned.

    I would hope that someone would have urged Foley to not seek re-election, but quietly telling a longtime congressman to go away is kind of like quietly telling kudzu to stop invading your garden.

  3. Triumph says:

    Due process might explain keeping things close to the vest and exercising every caution

    Yes, Denny Hastert and the Republican leadership are sticklers for due process and the rule of law. Their support for the McCain/Bush torture bill must have just been an anomoly.

  4. Brian says:

    No, the age of consent in Florida is 16 if the accused is 24 or under. Otherwise it is 18. See the law:

    794.05 Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors.–

    (1) A person 24 years of age or older who engages in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years of age commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. As used in this section, “sexual activity” means oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another; however, sexual activity does not include an act done for a bona fide medical purpose.

    It is my understanding that the kid was in Florida at the time, and this law’s age definition applies. By soliciting a minor, Foley did break the law and House ethics rules.

  5. kevinpolk says:

    RiverRat I salute you.

    There is something decent, and yes, even honorable in defending your own against all comers, whatever the merits of the claims against them.

    Reminds me of quotes you occasionally see from mothers of mass murderers about to be executed. “Deep down Charlie has a good heart,” they always seem to go, “He was just misunderstood.”

    Your comments, though widely peppering the target with bullet holes, miss the bulls-eye altogether.

    The three relevant questions that come to my mind are:

    Q. Did Rep. Foley send sexually suggestive emails to one or more minors who once worked in his office as page?

    A. Unless you believe that Rep. Foley has resigned from congress and issued the following statement

    “I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent”

    because he *didn’t* send such messages I think the answer here is yes.

    Q. Is it acceptable for elected officials who participate in the congressional page program (which is optional I believe) to send sexually provocative messages like:

    “Do I make you a little horny?” and

    “You in your boxers, too? … Well, strip down and get naked.”

    to minors who they meet through this program.

    A. Self-evident.

    Q. Is it the responsibility of house leadership to take effective action to protect minors who participate in the congressional page program from sexual advances made by Congressmen?

    A.Of course. Fire lurks under this smoke and in the months since they became aware of this house leadership ought to have been able to work this out and do something about it.

    As far as I can tell, until today, Mr. Foley was still allowed to have congressional pages interning in his office. The suggestion that congressional leadership couldn’t hold Foley accountable for his behavior because he didn’t sexually pursue a congressional page until after he stopped working with him is untrue. Whatever else should have been done, congressmen don’t have an unconditional right to have pages and his participation in this program should have been terminated at the very least.

  6. just me says:

    My question is did the house leadership have possession of all the emails and IMs that were sent, or just some of them.

    Because some of the initial emails released while kind of weird didn’t involve anything sexually explicit.

    The IMs on the other hand were pretty icky.

    But I was under the impression that the IM’s were more recently discovered. But that makes a difference.

    If the only thing the leadership has was the email with the request for a photo-on the weird side, but wouldn’t qualify as a sex crime-then I am not sure there is much to demand resignations of the leadership over.

    I don’t think Foley or his actions should be defended, but before we start burning Hatert at the stake, we should maybe know what information he had rather than assuming he had all the facts.

  7. OCPatriot says:

    Hastert & Co. may have sat on it. So isn’t that the modus operandi for the Republicans? Isn’t that what’s been happening with the current NIE Report, and the prior one, and what delayed Tom the hammer DeLay’s censure? It seems to me that the press and the media and middle of the road Republicans and conservatives and the Liberals and Democrats have been playing the victim, as in “Poor me!”, for much too long. First, they let people like Hastert do something unjust like holding up a report. Then they act surprised at the “bad” Republicans for doing this. Then they protest, calling what the Republican leadership does “despicable” or “dirty tricks” or “untrue” or, worse yet, as you do, “unfair”. All of which only makes you, the press and your organization look even more like victims. And so you dig your own fate. I also sense that, when you do this and ring your hands, you are hoping the Republican leadership will receive their comeuppance from some mysterious force, and that they will self-destruct of their own accord. The Democrats have been out of power for so long they’re afraid to lose any handhold they have, and the press and media have become so used to truckling to the Administration, it is almost a lost battle. It is important to recognize that, if you are ever to restore any semblance of dignity you and your organization have, you need to vote for the Democrats this time around, nevertheless, to balance the Republican leadership who have lived up to Lord Acton’s maxim: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I’m starting to see it for what it is, being a victim. Unless you can take action, get the vote out, sue, even call up your Rep and Senator and pressure them to take action, it’s just more of being a victim.

  8. OCPatriot says:

    This smacks, by the way, of the same type of cover-up that the Catholic Church has now disavowed. It cost the Church millions of dollars and resulted in great shame. Hastert & Co. are as smarmy as the Church was in their cover-up. One, they need to go in shame. Two, a fund needs to be created for the interns affected by all this, carved out of Hastert’s personal fortune, or a lawyer needs to be appointed to charge Hastert with conspiracy and perjury, and to sue for injuries and damges. If those who perpetrated this, and helped to conceal it, are taken care of, the Republican Party can claim clean hands. Remember, this is not the rank and file, this is the Leadership of the Party.

  9. Besides the reprehensible conduct on the part of Foley, I think this does call into question the wisdom of the GOP house re-election efforts. St. Pete newspaper apparently had the emails last November. If the house new this last spring, then they should have pushed to replace Foley in the election. Why they didn’t and why the newspaper held on to the story are two good questions.

    In all of this, the kindest thing you can say is when a republican congressman gets caught going after young boys he at least has the decency to resign. The democrats just keep re-electing people like Studds, Studds didn’t have the decency to resign and the democrats didn’t have the decency to kick him out of office.

  10. Bruce says:

    Wow, River Rat, did you take lessons from the Clinton School of Legal Justifications for Pedophelia?

    What cesspool of moral relativism do you come from?

  11. Paul S. says:

    Denny Hastart and John Boehner two supporters of the Clinton impeachment hearings did nothing while a standing congressmen “cybered” with a minor…

    And to think Roger Rosenblatt thought the age of irony died five years ago.

  12. dennis says:

    And while we are busing stringing up the Republican leadership for doing nothing about this, can we string up the Democratic leadership for continuing to let Ted Kennedy stay in office, despite his invovlement in a manslaughter case; Barney Franks, despite his lover’s running a sex ring out of his house; and could we finally admit that Bill Clinton committed perjury and probably should not have cheated on his wife with someone young enough to be his daughter? And then, can we remember that Foley hasn’t been convicted or even charged with anything yet?

  13. Kimberly says:

    Looking for wiggle room (RiverRat) by quibbling over the fact that the teenaged boy was 16 at the time seems pretty shallow given the outrage over Monica Lewinsky, a consenting adult. Also, given the fact that this man was noted in a St. Petersburg newspaper at the time of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair as being ‘outraged’ and ‘shocked’ by Clinton’s so-called ‘depravity’ lends an extremely hypocritical edge to this story.

    And remember, this was a Congressman who was head of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. It doesn’t get any worse than this.

  14. G.A. Phillips says:

    Lets look at the reasons for this type of sickness, there it is, I can see it, looks just like 50 years of a godless liberal culture! From what I have seen on the news today, of what the leadership new a few months ago was more of homosexual emails rights issue then a dysfunctional homosexual criminal emails issue.

  15. gil says:


    Nice try to change the subject. It will not work.

    Let’s not be disingenuous and pretend that the Republican or Democratic leaderships will not go the extra mile to “protect” a secure Congressional district. The question here Dennis, is to what extent can a Political Party do that, and still claim “moral” superiority over the other side.

    Republicans have consistently claimed the higher ground when it comes to morals….. After this can they any more?

    This is not about Clinton, Kennedy, or Franks any more than it is about Duke Cunningham, Tom Delay, John Cornyn, and so on. This is about Congressman Foley’s brake of trust, and the way the Republican leadership has reacted to the problem so far.

    In my opinion the Republican Party is presented with a rather clear opportunity to demonstrate why they claim to be superior in their morals. Have their leadership resign, if after a clear bi-partisan investigation evidence is found that the entire sordid story was known by key Republicans that could have put morals above political gain, and did not.

    If the Republicans can’t get around to do this, then I believe they should stop talking about Clinton’s BJ once and for all it would ring rather hollow.

  16. go1 says:

    Of all the people you mention, only one did anything illegal sexually with someone underage(Studds), and he did it in 1973 (33-34 years ago). Get something more current . . . like these examples:

    If you want to pick any person who ever did ANYTHING illegal, we may as well list all the Congressmen in the last 100 years on both sides. Lying, being a coward, being a drunk, even stealing, is nothing compared to being a sexual predator of children in my mind. Anybody helping to cover this up should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.

  17. dave says:

    Speaker Hastert,
    If one of these pages were your teenage son, would have you sat on the information? Would you be satisfied with the actions so far? When did the Republican leadership stop covering up sexual harrassment of minors?

  18. Bandit says:

    The obvious answer is they called Cardinal Law for advice.

  19. Anderson says:

    The obvious answer is they called Cardinal Law for advice.


  20. madmatt says:

    Spin rethugs, spin!!!!
    Its nice to see that the RNC has already moved onto the important issue of what to do with Foleys campaign cash!

  21. jim says:

    I’d like to thank the writer of this article, for having the intellectual honesty to declare that if Hastert and Boehner really did cover this up, then they need to go post-haste.

    As for all the other possible scandals: I’m for a lie-detector test of everyone in Congress, for everythign in Congress. I doubt that Congress will vote for such a bill. Just as I find it unlikely they’ll give themselves a pay cut.

    But THIS situation is definitely to be looked into. It appears to be a case where a mature man showing predatory tendencies was left in a position of power, because it was convenient to other members of his party. And the possibility of there being other scandals, does not change this case being a very, very bad thing.