MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. Thirty-nine days before the election, Congressman Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, has resigned from Congress. He did so in the aftermath of news that he had sent unusually personal e-mails to a 16-year-old former male page.
Foley, who is 52 and single, had been considered a shoo-in for a seventh term. Here's what Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert had to say about the matter earlier today.
Representative DENNIS HASTERT (Republican, Illinois; Speaker of the House): As of now, he's done the right thing. I've asked John Shimkus, who is the head of the page board, to look into this issue regarding Congressman Foley. We want to make sure that all our pages are safe and the page system is safe.
Unidentified Man (Reporter): How disturbing is this?
Rep. HASTERT: Well, none of us are very happy about it. Thank you.
NORRIS: Joining us to talk about this sudden turn of events is NPR's Brian Naylor. And, Brian, walk us through what led to Congressman Foley's resignation.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Well, Michele, the story was first reported by ABC News. A 16-year-old male page who worked in the office of another congressman, not Foley, in the summer of 2005 apparently gave Foley a handwritten thank you note when he left the page program and returned home to Louisiana. Foley then sent a series of e-mails from his personal AOL account to the boy. He asked him how old he was, what he liked to do, what school was like. He also talked about someone else who, Foley wrote, acts much older than his age and is in really great shape. Foley also asked the former page to e-mail him a picture.
And this afternoon, Foley abruptly tendered his resignation. In a statement he said he was "deeply sorry." I apologize, he said, for letting down my family and the people of Florida.
NORRIS: And ABC you said broke the news here. Did they indicate that there was more damaging e-mails or communication?
NAYLOR: Exactly. They said that they have some instant message texts that Foley wrote that were more explicit, and that, after confronting Foley with this fact, that's when Foley quickly handed in his resignation.
NORRIS: Brian, can you give us a sense of Foley's reputation in Congress, and tell us, if you could, a little bit about his Congressional district.
NAYLOR: He was a reliable Republican. Conservative, but now always dogmatic. He was someone you could always go to get a soundbite from. And I should say the questions about his sexuality are not news. When he considered running for the Senate in 2004, it was an issue. Foley said he had a right to privacy.
Ironically, or sadly, he was also founder and co-chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Childrens Caucus. He represents a district in south central Florida that's fairly wealthy: a lot of new golf course developments, large number of citrus farms. And Foley always easily won reelection. It was considered a safe Republican seat.
NORRIS: What happens now with his seat?
NAYLOR: Well, Republicans are meeting now to come up with a replacement. Foley's name will remain on the ballot, since they've already been printed. But according to Florida law, any votes for Foley go to his replacement.
The Democratic candidate is a wealthy businessman named Tim Mahoney, who put out a statement today saying this was a sad time for all the families involved.
The district gave President Bush 55 percent of its votes, so it's interesting to see if the GOP can hang on.
NORRIS: Thank you, Brian.
NAYLOR: Thanks, Michele.
NORRIS: That was NPR's Brian Naylor at the Capitol.