Marquette Warrior: Did Anybody Really Know What Foley Was Doing?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Did Anybody Really Know What Foley Was Doing?

From the San Francisco Chronicle, a headline that suggests that people should have long ago known about the pedophile behavior of Rep. Mark Foley of Florida.

But read past the headline, and scrutinize the article.
House pages were warning each other about Foley in ‘95

Many of them say they felt uneasy about his actions

(10-04) 04:00 PDT Washington -- In 1995, male House pages were warned to steer clear of a freshman Republican from Florida, who was already learning the names of the teens, dashing off notes, letters and e-mail to them and asking them to join him for ice cream, according to a former page.

Mark Beck-Heyman, now a graduate student in clinical psychology at George Washington University, and more than a dozen other former House pages said in interviews and via e-mail that Rep. Mark Foley was known to be extraordinarily friendly in a way that made some of them uncomfortable.

Beck-Heyman, who is now a Democrat, said the attention was “weird,” and he provided a handwritten letter that Foley had sent him after the page left Washington to return home to California, suggesting that they get together during the Republican National Convention in San Diego in 1996.

The e-mail exchanges that have become public in recent days are between Foley and male former pages. None of those interviewed said they had received a sexual or suggestive overture from him during their time on Capitol Hill. Yet many of them said they were uneasy about Foley’s actions and felt awkward complaining to anyone about them.

Foley was popular with many of the pages. The teenagers come from all over the nation to serve at the Capitol.

Their schedules are tightly controlled. They travel with adult chaperones and their computers are monitored. So when they do receive extra one-on-one attention, it is a big deal.

The pages did, however, receive a lot of attention from Foley. He attended one of their parties in a tuxedo. He donated to the fundraiser that helps pay for their prom and spoke admiringly about them in floor speeches. He learned their names and asked them about themselves. For many, it was welcome attention.

“He was consistently kind,” said Bryce Chitwood, president of the 2002 page class. “He was just a very friendly man and was always willing to befriend a page. It was something we appreciated. You find yourself very low on the totem pole of the congressional power scale. For a congressman to act like he was interested in a person and cared about us was something pretty special and pretty important.”

Foley spoke about his attachment to the program occasionally as part of the farewell address lawmakers delivered to House pages each summer.

In 2002, a page had won a lunch with the congressman at the annual page auction. When he asked to go to Morton’s steakhouse, Foley said on the House floor that the two of them “proceeded to cruise down in my BMW to Morton’s. And all of this story is meant to make you all feel jealous that you were not the high bidders.”

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who served as a Senate page between 1963 and 1967, said Foley’s attempts to socialize with pages went beyond the ordinary. Davis and other lawmakers may have taken their own pages to lunch at the Members’ Dining Room at the end of the year, Davis said, but anything else was considered inappropriate.

As a page, Davis recalled, “if a member of Congress, a House member or a senator, took the time to talk to you, that was a big deal. That was a huge deal.”

Anna Fry, a former House page, said some of her classmates may have been tempted to correspond with the congressman after they left because they were eager to land future jobs on Capitol Hill.

“Everyone was looking for an opportunity to stay in Washington,” Fry said. “I can see how a 16-year-old would be vulnerable to that.”

Matt Schmitz, a former page whose younger brother also was a page, said: “I certainly warned my little brother, who was a page last year. A few of the members are a little friendlier to the pages.”

Beck-Heyman, who later worked for the Clinton White House and the John Kerry presidential campaign, joined the page program in the summer of 1995. He said that a departing page told him to be “very careful” of Foley.

Within weeks, Beck-Heyman said, Foley had learned his name and asked at least twice to take him to get ice cream. He declined. After he completed the page program, Beck-Heyman wrote thank you notes to 10 House members. He received a reply from Foley suggesting they meet during the Republican convention in San Diego.
So what do we have here?

Very thin gruel.

Yes, some of the pages felt uncomfortable. But note the key sentence in the article above:
None of those interviewed said they had received a sexual or suggestive overture from him during their time on Capitol Hill.
So, no smoking gun. No obscene proposition. No groping incident.

Given that Foley was gay, any charges against him, in the absence of hard evidence of misconduct, would have been met with charges of homophobia.

Quite possibly, a straight guy who was overly friendly with female pages would have gotten noticed and admonished to “knock it off.”


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