Tuesday, October 3, 2006

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.

In 1990, Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, was reprimanded by the House after it was revealed that Mr. Frank’s former associate, Steve Gobie, was running a male prostitution ring out of Mr. Frank’s apartment. Mr. Frank refused to resign from Congress and has been subsequently re-elected.

In 1989, former Sen. John Tower, Texas Republican, was nominated by President George Bush for secretary of defense. However, Mr. Tower failed to win Senate confirmation after being accused of alcoholism and having affairs with multiple women.

In 1976, Rep. Wayne Hays, Ohio Democrat, resigned after his former secretary, Elizabeth Ray, told reporters that the congressman had hired her and given her raises under the condition that she act as his mistress.

“I can’t type. I can’t file. I can’t even answer the phone,” Ms. Ray said at the time.

In 1974, Rep. Wilbur D. Mills, a powerful Arkansas Democrat who was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was a passenger in a car pulled over at 2 a.m. by U.S. Park Police. Mr. Mills was drunk and was accompanied by an Argentine stripper known by the stage name Fanne Foxe, but the ensuing scandal did not prevent him from being re-elected that year.

Later, however, when Mr. Mills was spotted in a nightclub where Miss Foxe was performing, he was stripped of his committee chairmanship and did not seek re-election in 1976.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide