The Blog

Foley: Who's to Blame?

So who is to blame for the Republicans' mishandling of Foley's inappropriate behavior? Somehow, we are told it is the larger culture. Somehow it is gay people.
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It occurs to me, in watching the Republican leadership and their allies scramble for an alibi that flies in the scandal surrounding Congressman Mark Foley, that no one is stating one, obvious fact: that for all Americans, gay or straight, it is simply unacceptable to engage in solicitous behavior with teenagers.

Why do I feel the need to state the obvious? While Foley has left town, his colleagues are rushing to get back on message with less than five weeks left to the midterm elections. And when all else fails this group, they fall back to a time-tested formula: blame the gays.

This narrative begins with the Family Research Council, the hatemongering right-wing group which is claiming that Foley wasn't stopped because of a culture that "rejects sexual restraints in the name of diversity." They would be hard-pressed, however, to find any credible organization or person who finds that sexual harassment and solicitation of a teenager fall under the rubric of diversity.

But this didn't stop Newt Gingrich from going on Fox News to say that the GOP leadership didn't act because there were afraid of being accused of gay bashing. Oh really? The same GOP leaders who are trying to write gay people out of the Constitution chose not to investigate inappropriate sexual behavior because they were worried that they might be branded as homophobic?

This has nothing to do with homophobia. This is about the sexual solicitation of teenagers. In fact, The Journal of the American Medical Association found that 90 percent of pedophiles are men, and that 98 percent of those men are heterosexual.

So who is to blame for the Republicans' mishandling of Foley's inappropriate behavior? Somehow, we are told it is the larger culture. Somehow it is gay people. And, somehow it is the Democrats even though they knew nothing about Foley's actions, and, in fact, were kept in the dark by the Republicans overseeing the page program.

The public and responsible members of the press cannot and should not accept these preposterous assertions. Speaker Hastert, Congressmen Shimkus and Boehner, and others in the GOP leadership knew for months that Foley was a threat and they did absolutely nothing -- and scapegoating their staffs won't work. The responsibility to protect those pages lies solely with them. They can't even get their story straight about who knew what and when. Even the White House has fallen into this hypocrisy when spokesman Tony Snow chimed in by calling these simply "naughty e-mails."

No one in America knows a responsible adult who would ever send those e-mails to a teenager. We didn't need to wait for the instant messaging. And no one knows a responsible adult who would cry at the graduation ceremony for pages and then squire one off to a celebratory dinner in his BMW.

As gay Americans, we are sitting on the sidelines of this scandal like everyone else. But unlike other Americans, we find ourselves targeted once again by a cynical Republican leadership for behavior of one of their own that is not only reprehensible, but possibly criminal.

We will not stand for this smear campaign and we don't believe that the American public, or voters in Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Reynolds' district, will either. Reynolds is one of many in the leadership who clearly knew about Foley's behavior but instead of taking action accepted a $100,000 check from the Florida congressman.

If Republicans are smart they'll do several things immediately: admit their complicity, establish safeguards to better protect these young pages and realize that blaming gay America for their misdeeds and mishandling won't fly this time.