Rep. Foley Quits over E-Mails to Male Teen Pages

Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned from Congress Friday after being confronted with sexually explicit Internet messages he reportedly sent to at least one, and possibly several, underage former male pages.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

The abrupt resignation of Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley late yesterday offers another opportunity for Democrats to pick up one more seat. Mr. Foley resigned after news organizations began to make public e-mails and sexually explicit instant messages that he sent to teenage congressional pages. From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN: The existence of the e-mails and instant messages was first reported by ABC. First to surface were the e-mails Foley wrote to a 16-year-old boy who had been working as a Capitol page. In the e-mails, Foley asked the boy to send him a picture and asked him what he wanted for his birthday. His staff defended the messages as harmless, saying the Democrats were trying to smear Foley. That was Thursday. By Friday afternoon Foley had resigned, releasing just a short statement: I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida.

What had changed was the discovery by ABC of a second series of notes, instant messages much more explicit that Foley reportedly exchanged with other congressional pages. In one of the messages Foley asks, Do I make you a little horny? Making the episode even stranger is that Foley was the chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus and had recently introduced a bill to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet. Yesterday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert ordered a check of the system overseeing House pages, saying, quote, "We want to make sure that all of our pages are safe."

Mark Foley's resignation, less than six weeks before the election, presents new problems for Republican leaders who need to hold on to as many seats as possible if they're going to avoid losing control of the House of Representatives to Democrats in November. Foley, a six-term incumbent, represented the area around Palm Beach. He was locked in a nasty race against Democratic businessman Tim Mahoney. Foley was well ahead in the polls and considered a shoe in for reelection. Ballots with Mark Foley's name on them had already been printed and absentee ballots had been sent out. Sterling Ivey, spokesperson for Florida's Secretary of State, says state law dictates that if a candidate withdraws after the primary, that person's name cannot be removed from the ballot.

Mr. STERLING IVEY (Spokesperson for Florida's Secretary of State): The state law further goes on to explain that any vote cast for the candidate who withdrew - any vote cast for that candidate would be applied to the new nominee, even though the new nominee's name is not on the ballot.

ALLEN: Republican leaders in Florida have seven days to decide who that person will be. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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Foley Resigns; E-mails to Male Page Questioned

Rep. Mark Foley has resigned, effective immediately, in the face of questions about e-mails he wrote to a former male page. Before news of the e-mails surfaced, the Florida Republican had been predicted as an easy winner over Democrat Tim Mahoney.

But now Foley's run of six terms has ended amid questions from the media and his challenger about why the congressman, 52, wrote several e-mails to the former page, who was 16 at the time of the unusually personal exchange earlier this year.

Coming 39 days before the election, Foley's resignation took the shape of just two sentences, in which he announced his decision and apologized to his constituents for "letting down my family and the people of Florida."

Questions about Foley's sexuality are not new; when he considered running for the Senate in 2004, it became an issue. But Foley, who is single, cited his right to privacy.

In Congress, Foley has been known as a reliable Republican vote — conservative but not dogmatic. He represented the wealthy South Central Florida district that includes Palm Beach. In a region bedeviled by hurricanes, Foley was instrumental in getting money for the district.

He was also the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus.

In light of his sudden resignation, the Republican Party will be allowed to replace Foley on the ballot.

NPR's Michele Norris talks with NPR's Brian Naylor.

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