Not Buying It
UPDATE: The Albany Times Union is reporting on its NYpolitics blog that Rep. Tom Reynolds urged Foley to run again, when Foley came to him contemplating not running for his 7th term (according to Bob Novak):
The state Democratic Party notes conservative columnist Robert Novak is reporting that NRCC Chair U.S. Rep. Tom Reynolds convinced now-disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley to run for re-election this fall even though Reynolds knew of the first round of questionable e-mails Foley had sent to a teenage male congressional page.
“A member of the House leadership told me that Foley, under continuous political pressure because of his sexual orientation, was considering not seeking a seventh term this year but that Rep. Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), talked him into running,” Novak wrote.
Reynolds confirmed to Novak that he did indeed urge Foley to run – as he urged all incumbents who “had not yet made up their minds.” Novak noted that the sexually explicit instant messages Foley sent to several male teens had not yet surfaced.
Perhaps Reynolds can explain this to the local media…but I'm certain that his constituents would truly like to know why it was that Reynolds was so adamant about Foley running again when he knew about the first spate of e-mails.
The Buffalo News has an interesting interview with Kirk Fordham — Rep. Tom Reynolds' current Chief of Staff, and former Rep. Mark Foley's former Chief of Staff. This is the fellow who tried to negotiate with ABC's Brian Ross to not broadcast the Foley internet correspondence in exchange for an exclusive interview with Foley. There is a lot of back and forth about Fordham's long, close relationship with his former boss and his family, and some noises about trying to protect Foley's elderly parents and sister from the contents of this correspondence (which may or may not be true to some extent, who knows, given the close history that these folks apparently shared).
But it was this point in the article where I threw up my hands and said baloney:
Kirk Fordham, Reynolds' chief of staff, acknowledged in an interview Tuesday that he approached ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross last Friday with an offer: Ross would get the exclusive story on Foley's resignation from Congress in exchange for withholding those salacious instant messages.
Fordham said he never discussed the offer with Reynolds. Instead, Fordham said he acted in an effort to shield Foley's family, especially his elderly parents, from the lurid contents of the instant messages.
Politics "was not even a factor in my consideration," Fordham said. "I wasn't trying to prevent them from doing the story. I wasn't trying to prevent them from even excerpting the messages. It was just a simple request that they not post the whole thing on the ABC Web site and broadcast it all on the evening news."…
But now it turns out that Reynolds did not know exactly what his own employee was doing while aiding his former boss.
"I didn't give him permission to have any conversations he's had at any time with Mark Foley either as his friend or his former employer," Reynolds said during an event in Amherst. "But I think it would be highly unusual for anybody here that they would ask permission if they could talk to someone on any nature on their own time."
Um…yeah. Reynolds' chief of staff leaves for a couple of days during the biggest political crisis of his current boss' career, and Reynolds has no idea why he is gone or where he has gone or anything.
And then he reads in the news that his Chief of Staff has gone down to Florida to help his former boss, the partial catalyst of Reynolds' current political crisis, do damage control with the media…and Reynolds is okay with that, seemingly, because Fordham is still on the payroll?!?
Sorry, not buying it. And neither is the DNC:
"It strains credibility to suggest that the chair of the committee working to re-elect a House majority would just let his chief of staff go missing during the last days of the session," said Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. "It's like a department store owner telling all the cashiers to take the day after Thanksgiving off."
But wait, Fordham digs in deeper:
In the interview, Fordham who joined Reynolds' staff about a year ago said Democrats are wrong to say that he tried to suppress the salacious instant messages to minimize the political damage Republicans would face from the scandal.
On the contrary, Fordham said he thought it was inevitable that the messages would surface eventually in the blogosphere. He said he merely sought to prevent them from being reported on a major news site like ABC.
"I never intended to prevent this from being turned over to the proper law enforcement authorities," he added.
Oh, is that so? So can we assume that your next move after finding out about the internet correspondence was to call local and federal authorities?
Oh wait, no, in your own words, your next move was to immediately go to your boss, Tom Reynolds, the chairman of the NRCC who is responsible for Republican election hopes in the House and inform him about Foley's disgusting masturbation discussions with sixteen year olds that worked for the House:
Fordham said he then went back to Reynolds' office and met briefly with his boss.
"I described to him what was in the e-mails, what ABC News was about to release, and I told him that they were indefensible," Fordham said. "And pretty swiftly and immediately he said: he needs to resign and he needs to do it immediately."
So, then Fordham mysteriously decides to fly down to Florida to give Foley the news that the NRCC wanted him out of the race and pronto, but Reynolds had no idea this was going to happen?!? Suuuuuure.
And there is no indication in the Buffalo News (or in the LATimes account on this) that Fordham ever contacted proper authorities. Nor has there been any indication that anyone in the Republican House leadership ever did so.
Dana Milbank in the WaPo chronicles the Denny Hastert CYA Republican wingnut radio tour from yesterday (wherein Denny tries to save his own ass with the base, all the while dodging the buses that his subordinates appear to be lining up for him). I thought this was particularly telling of the whole smarmy Republican lack of responsibility attitude on this:
Hannity was not finished. "In all seriousness, how would you be responsible for what another congressman does on an instant message? How could you possibly know this kind of thing was going on?"
"We don't know," the speaker agreed.
Yes, Denny, how could you possibly know when the most that you and your political cronies did was verbally tell your Republican Congressional colleague to cease contact with this one boy after doing the bare minimum of follow-up on this with a verbal discussion with the alleged, potential harrasser. (And while we are at it this morning, why is there seemingly no paper trail on this with the GOP leadership? Was that on purpose to keep this on the down low? Wouldn't that be a good question to start asking, folks in the media?)
Did you do any further investigation other than taking Foley's word for things? Nope.
Did the fact that a young man had taken the extraordinary step of contacting Congressional staff about something he deemed to be "sick, sick, sick" even register with you as a big, fat red flag that something was wrong and needed further investigation? Nope.
Did it occur to anyone in the Republican House leadership who were "in the know" on this that the reason many children who are sexually harassed and abused do not come forward is that they are told by their harassers/abusers that "no one will believe you anyway" — and that by their inaction, they have just confirmed that for at-risk kids all over the country? I bet it didn't.
Shame on everyone involved in this. You dropped the ball. You have failed to stand up and act like an adult and say "You know what? We messed this up, but we are going to make it right, learn from this and, in the process, use this as means of educating the American public about a problem that needs much, much more work in this nation of ours."
Instead, it's been all Republican CYA, and a whole lot of every GOP-man for himself and finger pointing. I am ashamed that this is what constitutes leadership in the current Republican-controlled House of Representatives. And I have had enough of all of this.
Stand up, act like an adult, take responsibility, and realize, for once in your craven, power-grabbing lives, that the safety of the kids entrusted to your care is more important than saving your own political asses. Stop lying to those of us in the public, too — we'd all appreciate a little more honesty and a lot more putting America ahead of your own, personal, political interests.
But after watching all of this unfold, I'm not betting on that happening with this crew, either. Had enough?
(H/T to reader "Jacques" for the Buffalo News link. Thanks!)