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Harpers: Dem Gave Us Foley Emails In May

From Harper’s Magazine:

Democrat operative and gay blackmailer activist Michael Rogers

Republicans Want to Turn Over a New Page

The Foley scandal is no “October Surprise”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006. By Ken Silverstein

Leading Republicans, with the support of conservative media outlets, are charging that the Mark Foley scandal was a plot orchestrated by Democrats to damage the G.O.P.’s electoral prospects this November. According to the Washington Post, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert appeared on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and “agreed when the host said the Foley story was driven by Democrats ‘in some sort of cooperation with some in the media’ to suppress turnout of conservative voters” before the midterm elections.

Conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt has said that Hastert had become the “target right now of the left-wing media machine,” and House Majority Leader John Boehner has charged that the release of the Foley documents so close to the elections “is concerning, at a minimum.” Meanwhile, accounts I’ve heard about the FBI’s initial inquiries suggest the bureau is as interested in uncovering how the story came to public attention as it is in investigating Foley’s actions.

The Republican leadership is lying when they claim that Democrats have engineered an “October Surprise”; there was never a plan undermine the G.O.P. or to destroy Hastert personally, as the speaker has vaingloriously suggested. I know this with absolute certainty because Harper’s was offered the story almost five months ago and decided, after much debate, not to run it here on Washington Babylon.

Last May, a source put me in touch with a Democratic operative who provided me with the now-infamous emails that Foley had sent in 2004 to a sixteen-year-old page. He also provided several emails that the page sent to the office of Congressman Rodney Alexander, a Louisiana Republican who had sponsored him when he worked on Capitol Hill. “Maybe it is just me being paranoid, but seriously, This freaked me out,” the page wrote in one email. In the fall of 2005, my source had provided the same material to the St. Petersburg Times—and I presume to The Miami Herald—both which decided against publishing stories.

It was a Democrat who brought me the emails, but comments he made and common sense strongly suggest they were originally leaked by a Republican office. And while it’s entirely possible that Democratic officials became aware of the accusations against Foley, the source was not working in concert with the national Democratic Party. This person was genuinely disgusted by Foley’s behavior, amazed that other publications had declined to publish stories about the emails, and concerned that Foley might still be seeking contact with pages.

Though the emails were not explicitly sexual, I felt strongly that Foley’s behavior was inappropriate and that his intentions were clear. Why would a middle-aged man ask a teenager he barely knew for his photograph, or what he wanted for his birthday? I contacted Foley and he strongly denied any ill intent. He told me there was “nothing suggestive or inappropriate” about his emails to the page, adding that if the page “was intimidated, that’s regrettable.”

My theory about the emails was that Foley was throwing out bait to see if the teen would bite. I spoke to a Foley staffer who violently rejected that interpretation of the emails and who blamed the whole problem on the page, saying it was all a misunderstanding due to the young boy’s overactive imagination. The staffer also said that Foley’s motive in asking the page for a picture was entirely innocent: he merely wanted an image of the boy so he could remember him more clearly in the event that he wanted a job recommendation down the road. Needless to say, none of this sounded even remotely convincing.

I tried to contact the page who received Foley’s emails and the boy’s parents, but got no reply to my inquiries. However, I did speak with another former page who’d had an unsettling encounter with Foley. “He was a lot more friendly than you’d expect a congressman to be,” this page told me. “He acted like he was a kid himself.” The former page said that on one occasion when he was still working on the Hill, Foley asked him and another page if he could accompany them to the gym, an invitation they declined because it made them uncomfortable. When the page mentioned the incident to a congressional intern who worked with the page program, he was told that Foley had a history of being too friendly with the pages, and it was suggested that it would be better to avoid Foley in the future.

Congressman Alexander’s office declined to comment on the matter, apart from issuing a brief statement emailed to me on May 31 by press secretary Adam Terry: “When these emails were brought to our attention last year our office reviewed them and decided that it would be best to contact the individual’s parents. This decision, on behalf of our office, was based on the sensitivity of the issue. Our office did, in fact, contact the parents, and we feel that they (the juvenile’s parents) should decide the best course of action to take concerning the dialogue outlined in the emails.” I had a number of other questions I wanted to ask—for example, although the ex-page’s parents were understandably concerned about their son’s name coming out in the press, didn’t Alexander’s office have an obligation to make sure that Foley was not hitting on other kids?—but Terry did not reply to further requests for comment.

The final draft of my story—which did not name the ex-page who received Foley’s emails—was set to run on June 2. “Foley’s private life should, under most circumstances, be his own business, but in this case there is a clear question about his behavior with a minor and a congressional employee,” went the story’s conclusion. “The possibility that he might have used his personal power or political position in inappropriate ways, as the emails suggest, should be brought to public attention.”

We decided against publishing the story because we didn’t have absolute proof that Foley was, as one editor put it, “anything but creepy.” At the time I was disappointed that the story was killed—but I must confess that I was also a bit relieved because there had been the possibility, however unlikely, that I would wrongly accuse Foley of improper conduct.

While Harper’s decided not to publish the story, we weren’t entirely comfortable with the decision. A few weeks later I passed along the emails and related materials to several people who were in a position to share them with other media outlets. I subsequently learned that other people had the same information and were also contacting reporters. (By this point, my original source apparently had given up on getting the media to cover the story.)

Among those who received information about the story but declined to pursue it were liberal outlets such as Talkingpointsmemo.com, Americablog.com, and The New Republic (The Hill, Roll Call, and Time magazine also had the Foley story, though I’m not certain when it came to their attention.) [Update, October 10, 2006 2:00PM: Talking Points Memo did not have access to the emails—and it’s possible that other publications named here did not either—but all, at minimum, were aware of the salient facts of the case.] Ironically, it was ABC—which just weeks ago was being defended by Republicans and attacked by Democrats for airing The Path to 9/11—that finally ran the story. The network obtained the emails from a person who is scrupulously non-partisan.

That was my experience of the Foley affair.

If this was all a plot to hurt the G.O.P.’s chances in the midterm elections, why did the original source for the story begin approaching media outlets a full year ago? If either of the Florida papers had gone to press with the story last year, or if Harper’s had published this spring, as the source hoped, the Foley scandal would have died down long ago. A stronger case could be made that the media, including Harper’s, dropped the ball and inadvertently protected Foley and covered up evidence of the congressman’s misconduct.

The source who brought me the story didn’t see it as a grand piece of electioneering. He viewed it as a story about one individual, Mark Foley, and his inappropriate and disturbing behavior with teenagers. The G.O.P. and its friends in the media are trying to concoct a conspiracy in order to divert attention from the failure of Republican officials to deal properly with Foley.

It is now absolutely clear that Foley was indeed a menace to kids working on Capitol Hill. In seeking to malign the parties who sought to expose his conduct, top Republicans reveal that they are far more outraged by the possibility that the scandal might harm their party’s prospects in November than they are by Foley’s behavior.

This puts the suspicion squarely back on Mike Rogers and his pals.

Where it should have been all along.

If this was all a plot to hurt the G.O.P.’s chances in the midterm elections, why did the original source for the story begin approaching media outlets a full year ago?

Because that was the time the Federal Marriage Amendment was being debated in Congress. It was voted on in June. Michael Rogers and his gang wanted to blackmail Mark Foley into voting against the amendment. Which he did.

In fact, the Federal Marriage Amendment was what set Mr. Rogers off on his jihad against Rep. Foley in the first place.

[ABC News] obtained the emails from a person who is scrupulously non-partisan.

How hilarious. That would be Melanie Sloan, former staffer for Rep. John Conyers and now an employ of George Soros’s CREW.

How people like Ken Silverstein get jobs in journalism is beyond me.

Also note that Mr. Silverstein talks about how outrageous the Foley emails were to his mind. And yet he admits to being relieved that Harpers didn’t publish them. Nor did he contact the GOP leadership or even the FBI. Such was his concern.

Instead, Silverstein claims he shopped the story around to other media outlets:

While Harper’s decided not to publish the story, we weren’t entirely comfortable with the decision. A few weeks later I passed along the emails and related materials to several people who were in a position to share them with other media outlets.

Why? Is this standard journalistic practice? I don’t think so. It sounds like Mr. Silverstein had his own agenda at this point.

And why didn’t the "Democrat operative" or Mr. Silverstein take these emails to the Democrats? A "Democrat operative" had this information months ago. Why didn’t the Democrats act upon it?

Yeah, Mr. Silverstein was upset by the Foley emails all right. And he really wanted to protect those pages. Just like the rest of the Democrats.

The source who brought me the story didn’t see it as a grand piece of electioneering. He viewed it as a story about one individual, Mark Foley, and his inappropriate and disturbing behavior with teenagers. The G.O.P. and its friends in the media are trying to concoct a conspiracy in order to divert attention from the failure of Republican officials to deal properly with Foley.

Remember, Silverstein is talking about someone he calls a "Democrat operative." Apparently, Mr. Silverstein is able to read minds since he can state his motives as fact.

And if this "Democrat operative" was indeed Mike Rogers, who it almost certainly was — or one of his compatriots, then how utterly hilarious it is for Silverstein to claim that "electioneering" wasn’t a factor.

Has Silverstein never read Rogers’ blog? — That’s all it is. It’s basically Mr. Rogers’ way of blackmailing Congressmen to do his bidding, or he threatens to out them at election time.

How can Mr. Silverstein be so obtuse? Or is he just playing dumb. Still, I guess this is how you end up writing gossip columns for Harpers.

(Who even knew Harpers was still published?)

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, October 10th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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