Video: No secret to bloggers

msnbc.com
updated 10/5/2006 5:46:51 PM ET 2006-10-05T21:46:51

For Republicans, Mark Foley’s e-mails could hardly have surfaced at a worse time, adding a sex scandal on top of public disenchantment with the war in Iraq just a little over a month before the midterm elections.

The scandal centers on sexually explicit e-mail and instant messages that Foley, a Florida Republican who resigned from Congress last week, sent to teenage male congressional pages. The Republicans’ message that they are the party of wholesome family values has taken a big hit because of the scandal, suggests a wide range of public reaction, including opinion polls, blog postings and reader response on MSNBC.com.

The most concrete indicator of public anger arrived Thursday in a new poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos Group, in which half of likely voters say the scandal will significantly influence their vote in November.

The poll was conducted Monday through Wednesday, as the Foley scandal began dominating the news; in its wake, nearly twice as many voters said Democrats would be better at combating political corruption as picked Republicans.

From readers, no shortage of opinion
That perspective is heavily reflected in reader opinion on MSNBC.com, where a message board on the scandal had drawn almost 5,600 comments by Thursday afternoon.

“I have a lot of respect for my father’s & my father-in-law’s Republican party (2 of the finest men I have ever known), but this isn’t their party anymore,” said a reader posting as Just Another Voice in the Static.

“It’s become a collection of thugs, power-mongers, and, sadly now, online sex predators. ... My father-in-law will not be voting Republican in the next election, and my father (God rest his soul) must be spinning in his grave.”

Several Republican loyalists posted messages equating the Foley scandal with Democratic scandals past. Critics responded that the new scandal was different because it carried a whiff of hypocrisy.

“The Repubs have been exposed by this Predator Foley scandal and cover-up. The party that takes so much enjoyment wearing its morals and religion on their sleeves has had its superficial facade torn away for all to see — They are hypocrites!” wrote a reader posting as jafco73.

Others noted that Republicans were in charge of the House and therefore responsible for House page program, and they particularly took aim at House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who was an educator before entering politics.

“Afraid to act? are you kidding? or did they need the money foley brought in for them?” asked a reader posting under the name NOOOOOO. “being a coach and a teacher makes this even worse not better. he should have seen the signs.”

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MSNBC.com’s unscientific online poll had the same message. Of more than 131,000 readers who had responded by Thursday afternoon, two-thirds said Hastert should resign.

Internecine warfare in the blogosphere
The Foley scandal was also the most frequently searched news topic on Technorati.com, a search engine for Weblogs. Google Blog Search returned more than 29,000 posts on “Mark Foley.”

Dennis Hastert: Self-Foot Shooting Extraordinaire” was the headline on a post by Brad Schrader on blogcritics.com. His message: “First things first: I really believe Dennis Hastert is lying.”

House Republicans’ strategy for dealing with the scandal revealed an emerging split even among conservatives. On her blog, conservative commentator Michelle Malkin sharply criticized Matt Drudge, proprietor of the Drudge Report and a conservative fixture on talk radio, for seeming to blame the pages for “egging” Foley on:

“And if anything, these kids are less innocent — these 16- and 17-year-old beasts,” Drudge said on his weekend radio show. “ ... You’re not going to tell me these are innocent babies. Have you read the transcripts that ABC posted going into the weekend of these instant messages, back and forth? The kids are egging the Congressman on! The kids are trying to get this out of him. We haven’t got the whole story on this.”

Malkin responded: “At this point, I think the GOP is making a mistake banging the drum so hard over the apparent far left/MSM [mainstream media] orchestration of the story. However long the other side sat on the e-mails and IMs, the fact is that Mark Foley — and Mark Foley alone — is responsible for giving his enemies something to spring upon his campaign in the first place.”

It was on talk radio that the commentary took on its most Wild West character, as partisan hosts demanded Republican accountability or exposure of a Democratic conspiracy.

Rush Limbaugh joined Drudge in leading the conservative attack. He said Monday on his radio show: “Please don’t misunderstand. I’m just telling you that the the orgy and the orgasm that has been taking place in the media since Friday and with the Democrats is — it’s all coordinated, and it’s all oriented toward the election. There’s no concern about the kid, no concern about the children.”

Warning for Democrats, too
Public reaction later in the week suggests that those counterattacks could be whipping up something of a blowback for Democrats.

“My guess is that some liberal conspired with the liberal media to sit on the evidence for an extended period of time to wait until the revelation would have the most political impact,” a reader posting as jbdjbd wrote on MSNBC.com’s message board.

Similarly, a reader posting as Code3blog implied a conspiracy, criticizing “individuals, mostly smear teams in the employ of Democratic Party interests, [who] held criminally-acquired private communications that also, if their stated belief is true, were in violation of child protection laws.”

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