Video: Foley's conduct no secret to bloggers

By Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 10/9/2006 12:15:03 PM ET 2006-10-09T16:15:03
COMMENTARY

ABC's Brian Ross broke the story of Mark Foley's digital escapades with underage boys last Friday. He was the first mainstream journalist to do so, but the story has been circulating on the Internet for over a year.

Washington blogs are notorious for their eyebrow raising gossip. We all remember the joy of reading the blog "The Washingtonienne," by Jessica Cutler.  Her saucy stories of Capitol capers became a thinly veiled novel.  Anything more than "fiction" would have probably gotten her sued, even though the stories were clearly based on things she witnessed in D.C..

Well, there was also a digital record of the allegations against Mark Foley. I am not referring to Foley being gay. That, it seems, wasn't much of a secret. Rather, it's the specific charge of pursuing underage boys.

The online rumors began, to the extent they can be pieced together, in March of 2005.

On a website called Blogactive, I found this quote:

"Foley is often seen entertaining young men, some of whom appear close to underage."

Later that month, on March 22, this ominous comment from the blogger:

"Everyone already knows Foley's a self-hating closet case. 
When we get closer to the midterm elections, I am sure more will surface."

That website is run by a man named Mike Rogers, and the site makes a point of outing gay Republicans and other politicos who are not openly gay. It can be inferred from the second quote that there was something more than sexuality in play for Foley, and the "midterm" reference seems oddly omnipotent right now.

In July of this year, a new website went up called Stop Sex Predators, over at Blogspot. The site was small and generated very little traffic. The first postings stated the mission was to catch predators, and rehashed a few well known cases.

The site quickly seemed to focus on possible Congressional scandals.  In August, the blog solicited information about any member of Congress suspected of being a predator.

By September, it began posting e-mails from people claiming to be former interns. They each specifically referenced Mark Foley. On September 24, days before the ABC story ran, Stop Sex Predators posted a few of "the" e-mails, the ones asking what the page wanted for his birthday, etc.

And yet another piece of the puzzle, early last month there was a discussion at Daily Kos about Foley's sexuality. The blog entry referred to a "dirty little secret" that some people knew about Foley.

While some speculated that it was simply that he was gay, one blogger who went by the name "WHInternNOW" wrote:

"Foley's eye for the young boys in the White House and around the Capitol is what has the Republican bosses scared to death."

After ABC ran the initial emails, Brian Ross says he received messages from other pages and interns.  One can infer that those sources provided the more illicit instant messages that now have a life of their own on the Web and in cable news.

We have already been given a rough timeline of when GOP leaders became aware of some "over-friendly" emails that Foley may have sent to an underage page. The ongoing debate is centering on what kind of fallout the GOP will endure for the cover up.

But House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Rep. Tom Reynolds, and a handful of staffers were not the only people who knew about this problem.

The digital trail reveals that the story was alive for well over a year, and perhaps longer.

Wrong is wrong, and Foley needed to be exposed in order to protect the teens he may have encountered next. But why did it take so long for this story to surface?

That eerie prediction from Mike Rogers, insinuating that more would be revealed in time for the Midterm election, is alarming.

Have both parties put political advantage ahead of the protection of children?

Why am I even surprised?

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