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October 4, 2006
Column # 1,310
Red Flags of a Pedophile
by Michael J. McManus

      What did the Republican leadership know about Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate relationship with teenage pages? When did they know it, and what did they do about it?

       House Speaker Dennis Hastert claimed he didn't know about the sexually explicit e-mails published in recent days until last Friday.  A year ago he saw a chatty e-mail from Foley to a 16 year-old page in which the Congressman requested a photograph of the boy.  That caused the boy's parents to complain; however, it did not contain sexually explicit material.

       Hastert turned the matter over to Rep. John Shimkus, R-IL,  who chairs a three-person committee overseeing the pages. Shimkus did not tell the Democratic Congressman on the committee about Foley's e-mail, but did warn Foley to stop contacting the former page.

       The fact that neither Hastert nor Shimkus told the Democrat on the committee suggests they were protecting a Republican seat.  What 52 year-old man asks a 16 year-old for a photograph?  That was one red flag that should have prompted Hastert to investigate.

       Another red flag is that many knew Foley spent an inordinate amount of time with pages.  He was one of the few Members of Congress who took pains to learn the names of 16 and 17 year-old aides, chatted regularly with them, sending hand-written notes and asking them to keep in touch when they returned home.

       "If a Congressman was talking to you, it was the best thing in the world," said Patrick McDonald, 21, a senior at Ohio State. "And he made himself known to pages in the first couple of weeks, befriending us, asking us how we were doing. He was willing to chill out with us."

       The question is why?  Pedophiles befriend vulnerable young people so they can be in a position later to lure them sexually.

       A third red flag is that the unmarried Congressman was widely known to be gay. A recent study published in "Demography" estimates that the number of exclusive male homosexuals in the general population is 2.5 percent. What is less well known is that gays are responsible for 32 percent of sexual offenses against children according to many studies such as one in the Fall 1984 "Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy."

       Finally, The Washington Post reports that "In 1995, male House pages were warned to steer clear of a freshman Republican from Florida, who was already learning the names of the teenagers, dashing off notes, letters and e-mails to them, and asking them to join him for ice cream," according to a former page.  Staff overseeing the pages in 2001 gave them a similar warning.

       Given these danger signals and history, what should Speaker Hastert have done?

       He or his staff could have met with other pages to see if they received any inappropriate e-mails or contact with Foley. They might have surveyed pages who had served in recent years.  They could have asked the FBI to examine Foley's computers, to read his correspondence with other pages.

       What they would have found are scores of inappropriate, sexually explicit e-mails. ABC, which broke the story, cites 52 of them.  See for examples.  One e-mail asked the page details about how he masturbated. Another invited a page to "have a few drinks" with him, saying "We may need to drink at my house so we don't get busted."

       Ironically, Foley served as Co-Chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus which fought for the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act signed last year.  As Foley told reporters, "We track library books better than we do sex offenders."

       What a great cover for his own sexual aberrations.  There's no evidence yet he molested pages. David Roth, his lawyer, denies he did so. Roth notes that he is an alcoholic who was intoxicated when he sent lewd messages to former pages, and had been molested as a child himself by a clergyman.

       If the FBI finds an e-mail in which Foley asked a minor to have sex, which is likely, that is a prosecutable crime, according to Pat Trueman, former Chief of the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

       The conservative Washington Times urged Hastert to resign at once:  "Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation... or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away."

       If Republicans want to attract pro-family voters, they must clean house.


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