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Steve Lopez / POINTS WEST

Foley on the Prowl: 2 Creepy 2 B 4Gotten

October 04, 2006|Steve Lopez

What R U wearing?

Comfy?

Don't get 2 comfy.

Newly resigned Rep. Mark Foley (R-Florida) could be blaming his recent troubles on U, 2.

After getting caught hitting on congressional pages with lurid shorthand e-mails and instant messages, the Florida congressman first blamed his keyboard adventures on alcohol, insulting alcoholics everywhere.

Actually, I shouldn't use the word "blame." Foley, 52, made it clear through his attorney that he accepts responsibility for what he's done, which I guess includes asking a teenage boy: "Do I make you horny?"

There must be a PR manual out there for public figures who find themselves in a jam, and maybe Foley borrowed a copy from actor Mel Gibson.

Take full responsibility, then immediately enter rehab.

Oh, people will say. Must have been the booze.

But Tuesday afternoon, ABC News reported that Foley once interrupted a vote in the House to engage in Internet sex with a former page.

Hard to blame that one on a three-martini lunch. Maybe that's why Foley's attorney went public shortly after the ABC bulletin with a headline of his own. Foley was molested between the ages of 13 and 15, he said, by a clergyman whose name he did not divulge.

Are we to believe him, or might this be another play for understanding, if not sympathy?

I don't know. We're all keenly aware that molestation by a priest is not beyond the realm. As far as I know, however, being molested by a priest doesn't mean you have to become a molester yourself. It could simply be that Foley became a creep all on his own.

But there was a certain symmetry to Foley's latest claim, since it brings us around to another national institution that has failed to keep children out of harm's way.

Here's a strange but convenient coincidence. Who was Foley running against in his congressional race?

Guy's last name is Mahoney.

Which brings us to my favorite priest.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, of our very own Los Angeles Archdiocese, did not exactly distinguish himself as a crusader for justice in the sexual abuse scandal that rocked his own church. In fact, there may be no more dangerous thing for a young male to do than visit Capitol Hill or a monastery.

"The similarities are remarkable," said Mary Grant, a sexual abuse victim who has long criticized Mahony's shuffling of accused priests and is livid at his continued refusal to release church files on suspected pedophiles.

Congressional leaders didn't seem too alarmed when it came to their attention last spring that Foley had been e-mailing a page in a way that was "overly friendly," as one congressman called it. Foley was apparently told to stay away from pages, and that was that.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, whose under-reaction has led to a call for his resignation by the conservative Washington Times, says he did not recall a fellow congressman telling him of the e-mails, but he's not denying that a colleague may indeed have delivered the news.

"If he did, he brought it in with a whole stack of things," Hastert said.

Now work with me on this.

If someone walked into your office to talk about tax cuts, Social Security, the prescription drug plan overhaul and an esteemed colleague from Florida who might be hitting on the pages while chairing the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, which subject do you think is least likely to slip your mind?

Washington is a small town. Something happens, everyone hears about it. Does the name Monica Lewinsky ring a bell?

As the L.A. Times reported Tuesday, Foley was known around town as a guy who had an unusual interest in approaching "young male pages, aides and interns at parties and other venues."

You'd think it might have occurred to congressional leaders that given his reputation, Foley, at the very least, was not the best man to head up that children's caucus, even if he did introduce legislation in July to protect kids from Internet perverts.

Hello?

Anybody awake there?

Yeah, Hastert might have known something, but he's not sure. And House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) at first said he told Hastert, but then he wasn't sure, and I don't even want to know how to pronounce Boehner's name.

"First there's the minimizing," says David Clohessy, another victims advocate who was struck by the similarities between church and state. "By that I mean defining sexual messages as 'overly friendly.' And then there's the buck passing. 'Well, I informed so-and-so who informed so-and-so.' It seems to me Hastert is working overtime to talk, talk, but do little, which is the classic bishop's PR response."

We're talking about minors, Clohessy indignantly reminded.

"I can't help but wonder when we as a society will begin to err on the side of action and caution instead of erring on the side of inaction and complacency."

Good point.

But in the end, it's pretty simple.

Likes boys. Sends strange e-mails 2 them.

What more do U need 2 know?

*

Reach the columnist at steve.lopez@latimes.com and read previous columns at www.latimes.com/lopez.

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