Conservative Reaction to the Foley Scandal

The Republican attempt to blame the Foley scandal on Democrats just isn’t getting any traction. While several Republicans have claimed this is all politics, even claiming that the incriminating emails were released by Democrats for political gain, ABC has verified that the information was actually leaked by Republicans and non-partisan individuals. The Washinton Wire reports:

Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent at ABC News, said a nonpartisan source provided the “tamer” emails that the network posted on its Web site “The Blotter.” Within hours of that posting, “numerous” former House pages emailed ABC with additional allegations about Foley, Ross said. Two former pages–one who had been sponsored by a Republican member of Congress and one by a Democrat–offered ABC texts of sexually explicit instant messages purportedly sent by Foley. Ross said the network then tracked down the original recipients of those messages and got firsthand confirmation of their authenticity.

Ross said that, in his opinion, ABC’s path to the story was too convoluted to be part of a broader partisan conspiracy. “The chain of events that just doesn’t hold up. . . in terms of being from a political party,” Ross said. “I know how that works. This was not it.”

News this afternoon has made it even more difficult for Republians to deny a lack of oversight by Republican House leaders as Kirk Fordham, who recently resigned as chief of staff to Rep. Thomas Reynolds, has stated that he reported Foley’s misconduct two years ago.

Today’s Evans-Novak Politcal Report says that Republican leaders encouraged a reluctant Foley to run for reelection despite knowledge of his emails:

The fact is, Foley was reluctant to run for re-election because of pressure over his homosexuality. He was reportedly considering two private-sector jobs already, after the White House had panned him as a Florida Senate candidate, reasoning that he could not win statewide. But National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) talked a reluctant Foley into staying. Naturally, Reynolds, as the campaign chairman, wants all incumbents to stay in the House and to minimize open seats. Foley filed as a candidate in Florida on May 8 of this year, after Reynolds and other Republican leaders had been made aware of the e-mails by the page’s congressional sponsor, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), in April. It would have been a good time to ease Foley out, because his district is solidly Republican enough that another candidate could have carried it easily.

Reaction on the right has been variable, with not all going along with the attempts to blame this on the Democrats. The conservative Washington Times called on Haskert to resign on Tuesday. Yesterday The Wall Street Journal provided an accurate assessment of the political damage this scandal will do to Republicans:

As the scandal over former Rep. Mark Foley has expanded to entwine Republican leaders who knew of his emails to underage male House pages but took little action, the party has new reason to worry about two key constituencies: Christian conservatives and suburban soccer moms.

Long before the disclosure of the unduly personal Foley emails and separate, sexually explicit instant messages last week, and the six-term Florida Republican’s sudden resignation, his colleagues were fretful that many conservatives would stay home on Election Day, turned off by high federal spending, illegal immigration and inaction on a number of social issues. Moderate suburbanites, meanwhile, complain of a party agenda that is too beholden to the conservatives on issues such as federal funding for medical research using embryonic stem cells, which President Bush vetoed in July…

“The Republican Party holds itself out, rightly or wrongly, as the guardian of values, and for something like this to occur does not bode well for the party,” said Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council and a frequent ally of Republican leaders. As for Christian conservative voters, “there’s clearly a lack of enthusiasm as compared to” the 2004 election.

With Republican attempts to blame Democrats for the scandal not holding up, perhaps their simplest solution would be to try to get voters to think that Foley himself was a Democrat. Both The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News and AP have had erroneous reports labeling Foley as a Democrat. AP issued a retraction while Fox removed the Democratic label from some later airings of the The O’Reilly Factor without issuing such a correction.

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