Foley’s follies

by Stephen Tall on October 6, 2006

For the last few days, US politics has been in thrall to the revelations surrounding Republican Congressman, Mark Foley, accused of ‘sex chat’ with two underage male pages.

This clip from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show gives the flavour:

No-one enjoys a laugh at Republican expense more than me – but this report from the Washington Times might give us some pause for thought:

The blogs giveth, but now the blogs are taking away ABC News’ scoop that former Rep. Mark Foley talked naughty to an underage boy.

Not that it makes the story any less creepy, but it turns out Mr. Foley was talking to a former page of legal age to uhm, engage in discussions that need not be repeated here.

Republicans and conservative commentators have been beside themselves since the story broke, blaming Democrats and calling it an “October surprise” carefully designed to impact the elections — skepticism that, at first, didn’t seem all that relevant to this blogger/reporter.

But now blogs are questioning whether ABC reporter Brian Ross deliberately left out key information — that the lad was 18 — to advance a story not quite true.

Without doubt, Mr Foley was abusing his position of power; just as Bill Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky. But to label him a ‘a child sex predator’ is cheap hyper-inflation of some grubby misbehaviour.

(Shades here of Mark Oaten, who was forced to resign from the Lib Dem front bench, after the News of the Screws exposed his affair with a ‘rent-boy’ – a far more sensationally pejorative term than ‘male prostitute’.)

But it still seems a sex story is that much more justifiable, that much more in the public interest, if the media can elide homosexuality and paedophilia.