WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — As Congress continued to feel the fallout from Rep. Mark Foley's resignation over a scandal with male pages, Foley's lawyer announced Tuesday that the Florida Republican had been molested by a clergyman as a teenager and that he was under the influence of alcohol when he sent lurid messages to congressional pages.
Foley had represented the West Palm Beach district for 12 years and was seeking re-election until his sudden resignation last week after the disclosure of salacious e-mails he sent to teenage congressional pages.
“This is part of his recovery,” attorney David Roth said of his disclosures about Foley. He declined to identify the clergyman or the church Foley attended, but said the abuse happened between the ages of 13 and 15.
Foley is a Roman Catholic and attended Sacred Heart School in Lake Worth, Fla.
Asked why Foley didn't disclose this information sooner, Roth said, "As is so often the case with victims of abuse, Mark advises that he kept his shame to himself for almost 40 years."
Foley accepted full responsibility for sending the lewd exchanges and in no way blames his conduct on the trauma he suffered as a sexually abused teenager, Roth said.
Roth said that Foley, who entered a mental health and alcohol rehab center on Sunday, never had sexual contact with a minor.
"Any suggestion that Mark Foley is a pedophile is false, categorically false," Roth said. "Mark Foley denies ever, ever having any sexual contact with a minor."
"Mark was the under the influence of alcohol at the time he sent the alleged e-mails and IMs that I have been informed of," Roth added.
Roth also announced for the first time that Foley was gay. "Finally, Mark Foley wants you to know that he is a gay man," Roth said in concluding his prepared remarks.
Hastert in spotlight
Earlier Tuesday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert brushed aside demands for his resignation, even as the Republicans' No. 2 House leader contradicted Hastert in the page scandal.
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President Bush gave Hastert a vote of confidence as the party struggled to contain pre-election fallout.
Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said he wouldn't resign as speaker, the top official in Congress and second in the line of succession to the presidency, in the controversy.
"I'm not going to do that," Hastert said when asked by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh whether he would resign.
Hastert sought to blame Democrats for leaking sexually explicit computer instant messages between Foley and former pages from 2003.
"We have a story to tell, and the Democrats have -- in my view have -- put this thing forward to try to block us from telling the story. They're trying to put us on defense," Hastert said.
ABC News, which first reported the exchanges, says it received the contents of e-mail and instant messages from former pages. It said its initial report last Thursday about e-mails between Foley and a Louisiana teenager prompted other former pages to come forward with more sexually graphic electronic messages.
On Tuesday, ABC News published more exchanges.Video: Foley scandal
"Can I have a good kiss goodnight," Foley was said to have messaged in one. A boy responded with cyber symbols and "
In another alleged message, Foley invited the teenager to his Capitol Hill townhouse "for a few drinks" even though he knew the boy was under the legal drinking age. "we may need to drink at my house so we dont get busted," Foley messaged.
Hastert told reporters on Monday that he was not aware of the complaint against Foley until last Friday. He acknowledged his staff was made aware of it last fall, but he said there was "no reason to bump it up to me at that time."
However, both Majority Leader John Boehner and New York Rep. Tom Reynolds, who heads the House Republicans' re-election campaign, said they had spoken with Hastert about a complaint concerning a former page from Louisiana last spring after being hold about it by Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who had sponsored the teen.
"I believe I talked to the speaker and he told me it had been taken care of," Boehner said in an interview Tuesday on radio station WLW in Cincinnati. "My position is it's in his corner, it's his responsibility."
Reynolds insisted several times in a Monday night news conference in his Buffalo-area district that "I took it to the speaker" this spring when Alexander also mentioned the inappropriate e-mail to him.
Republican leaders fear the impact on the Nov. 7 elections, and the possible loss of their House majority.
Bush weighed in for the first time Tuesday. Speaking at a Stockton, Calif., elementary school, he said he was disgusted by the Foley revelations and voiced support for Hastert.
"I know that he wants all the facts to come out," the president said.
A call for Hastert's resignation
The Washington Times, a newspaper with a consistently conservative editorial page, called for Hastert's resignation Tuesday, saying he was either grossly negligent "or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away."
Conservative activist Richard A. Viguerie kept up the drumbeat from the right, calling for Hastert to step down. "The fact that they just walked away from this, it sounds like they were trying to protect one of their own members rather than these young boys," Viguerie said on Fox News' "Studio B."
Boehner and Reynolds said that while they learned of overly friendly e-mails from Foley to the one Louisiana page this spring, they had no idea that the congressman had sent other, sexually explicit messages, to additional pages.
Neither lawmaker said they read the 2005 message from Foley, described as "sick" by the boy. The message asked for a photograph and mentioned a different teen who was in "great shape."
Foley had been originally confronted in the fall of 2005 about his communications with the one page. According to a weekend statement issued by Hastert's office, Page Board Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ill., and the House clerk met with the Florida lawmaker and told him to "immediately cease any communication" with the page.
Unlike GOP leaders Reynolds and Boehner, Shimkus read the 2005 e-mail.
The FBI announced over the weekend it was opening a preliminary investigation into the matter, but that, like much else, was a matter of confusion.
One law enforcement official said the FBI originally was given some Foley-related e-mail correspondence in July, but concluded that no federal law had been violated.
The agency reopened its preliminary investigation Sunday.
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