Foley Fallout Spreads; Bush Defends Hastert

The fallout on Capitol Hill from computer messages resigned Rep. Mark Foley sent to under-age pages continued Tuesday, with a call for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's resignation coming from a conservative newspaper.

Late Tuesday, Foley's attorney acknowledged for the first time that his client is gay. Speaking to the media in Florida, Attorney David Roth also said that when Foley was a teenager, he was molested by a clergyman.

But earlier in the day, the Republican Party was seeking to cope with a scandal that has derailed hopes of focusing on midterm elections. The day included a show of support for Speaker Hastert from President Bush.

The President spoke in California, where he went to raise money for Republican congressional candidates. In his first public remarks on the Foley scandal, Mr. Bush said he was "dismayed and shocked" to learn of what he called Foley's "unacceptable behavior."

"Families have every right to expect that when they send their children to be a congressional page in Washington, that those children will be safe," the president said.

"We have every right as citizens to expect people who hold high office behave responsibly in that office."

The conservative Washington Times newspaper has called on Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign his post, saying the House leader was either grossly negligent or deliberately looked the other way.

Hastert has said he does not remember being told by his staff that a former page had complained about e-mails Foley sent him in the summer of 2005.

Hastert conceded Tuesday that the e-mails were a red flag that should have warned House leaders of Foley's conduct.

Of Hastert, President Bush said, "I know that he wants all the facts to come out and he wants to ensure that these children up there on Capitol Hill are protected. I'm confident he will provide whatever leadership he can to law enforcement in this investigation."

The FBI is conducting a preliminary probe into whether any laws were broken by Foley's explicit messaging to minors.

House Republican leader John Boehner seemed to distance himself from Speaker Hastert as he explained his own conduct in the case.

In an interview with Cincinnati radio station WLW, Boehner said he too was aware of the initial concerns about Foley, and said he passed those concerns to Hastert.

"I believe the clerk of the House who runs the page program, the page board, all report to the speaker," Boehner said. "And I believed it had been dealt with."

Boehner's office later released a letter to the editor of the Washington Times, in which he stated that no one the House leadership, including Speaker Hastert, had any knowledge of the warped and sexually explicit instant messages that were revealed last Friday.

Other Republican House members have begun circling the wagons around Hastert. Arizona congressman John Shadegg has been rounding up signatures on a letter in support of Hastert. And Republican Ray LaHood, who represents a district in Illinois near Hastert's, says the speaker was ill-served by his staff.

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