Foley breaks silence on sex scandal
Brian Skoloff, Associated Press & Yahoo News, Nov 12 2008
Even today, two years after Mark Foley's very public fall from grace, the former congressman can't explain why he sent lurid, sexually explicit computer messages to male teens who had worked as Capitol Hill pages.
Sitting in his room at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York this week, the
Florida Republican, wearing a yellow tie with blue elephants, finally broke his silence.
"I'm trying to find my way back," Foley said in an interview with The Associated Press, his first public comments on the scandal since resigning from Congress on Sept. 29, 2006.
Foley insists he did nothing illegal and never had sexual contact with teens, just inappropriate Internet conversations. Investigations by the FBI and Florida authorities ended without criminal charges.
And while he concedes his behavior was "extraordinarily stupid," he remains somewhat unwilling to accept full public scorn. These were 17-year-olds, just months from being men, he insists.
Foley had built a national reputation as an advocate for tougher penalties against child sexual predators. As co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, he helped craft a law to protect children on the Internet. Still, he said, there was no hypocrisy.
Foley said, noting a "huge difference" from lurid chats with teens on the brink of adulthood.
he added, breathing a heavy sigh, his eyes wandering toward the ceiling.
So why talk now? Sympathy? Forgiveness?
Nope. Just to free himself from the media clamoring for his first interview.
Today, he's a pariah in Congress and the Republican Party. The affable
man who reveled in the spotlight finds himself branded a pedophile, at best, a creep. Three former staffers refused comment because of their
"In public life, you dream of the day they'll name a hospital after you, or a bridge or a post office," Foley said, twisting a gold band on his ring finger identical to one his high-society dermatologist boyfriend wears.
But Foley carried on the computer conversations for months, asking about masturbation, sex, and other details.
Shortly after his resignation, his attorney announced that Foley was gay and an alcoholic and had been molested by a priest as a teenage altar boy in Florida. Foley then checked himself into a treatment facility.
He was elected to the U.S. House in 1994 as a popular hometown boy who kept busy in glitzy Palm Beach, Fla., attending lavish parties and fundraisers with the likes of Donald Trump, Jay Leno, and actress Bo Derek.
While his homosexuality was said to be the worst-kept secret on the Hill and around Palm Beach, he cloaked himself in a false public persona, appearing at events with beautiful women. He drank a lot and spiraled into darkness.
He doesn't feel fully responsible for Democrats taking over the House in 2006, but owns up to his role and calls his behavior "profoundly regrettable."
A Republican won back Foley's congressional district last week after the Democrat who replaced him was caught in an adultery scandal. It's become known as "The Curse of the Mark Foley Seat."
So what does the man who once was such a popular figure in politics and high-society do now?