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Foley joins list of sex scandals on Capitol Hill
Question of the Day
The resignation of former Rep. Mark Foley has shocked Washington, but it is not the first accusation of impropriety with underage congressional pages to make headlines. The investigation of Mr. Foley’s misconduct adds to a long history of Capitol Hill sex scandals.
One congressional historian said House members have proven more prone to such scandals.
“With the exception of Bob Packwood, it’s mostly been on the House side,” said Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian in the Senate’s Historical Office. “That doesn’t mean there weren’t things going on, but it wasn’t something that ruined their careers.”
Mr. Packwood, Oregon Republican, was forced to resign from the Senate in 1995 in the wake of accusations that he had sexually harassed women.
In 1983, Rep. Gerry Studds, Massachusetts Democrat, was censured by the House for sexual involvement during the previous decade with a 17-year-old male page. Mr. Studds turned his back on members of the House as the charges were read against him. Afterward, Mr. Studds held a press conference with the former page, acknowledging their relationship.
Unlike Mr. Foley, Mr. Studds did not resign from Congress. In fact, he became the first openly homosexual member of Congress and won re-election six more times before retiring in 1996.
Also in 1983, former Rep. Daniel Crane, Illinois Republican, admitted to having an affair with a 17-year-old female page. Mr. Crane apologized for his actions on the House floor, saying, “I only hope my wife and children will forgive me.”
He was voted out of office in 1984.
Why have some members of Congress survived sex scandals while others have not?
“What makes [the Foley scandal] different is that it was off the grid of social acceptability,” said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis-management consultant. “You can’t spin it. Americans are much more offended by hypocrisy than they are by dishonesty.”
Mr. Foley had been co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.
In an interview with CNN yesterday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said he was not aware of Mr. Foley’s reported misconduct until the Florida congressman resigned.
“First I was really aware of this was last Friday when it happened,” Mr. Hastert said. “And all of a sudden, the press came out and said that there were these e-mails that were from 2003.”
Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, spent much of the day yesterday meeting privately with the clerk of the House and the Republican chairman of the House page board, CNN reported.
Sex scandals on the Hill have not been limited to those involving congressional pages.
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