Although American politicians of both parties are taking the heat for not reacting more quickly when they first heard of the sexually-oriented e-mails that Congressman Mark Foley was suspected to be sending to teenage pages in Congress at least two newspapers are also under fire.
The Miami Herald and the St Petersburg Times, both published in the Congressman’s home state, are said to have known of the alleged sex tapes at least a year ago. But did nothing about the story, which could seriously affect the upcoming mid-term elections and cost the Republicans control of Congress.
The papers both claimed they were unable to substantiate the story – at least to their satisfaction. The St Petersburg Times said that it received copies of the e-mail exchanges between the Congressman and a former page from Louisiana. The paper said the boy, who was under age, did not want his name used. The paper says now it didn’t want to publish accusations against the Congressman based on unnamed sources And anyway the exchanges seemed to be friendly chit-chat.
The Miami Herald admits it received similar information. But considered the e mail messages were too ambiguous to make a news story. When both papers asked the Congressman about the e-mails he insisted he was just “being friendly”
So nothing appeared until the allegations surfaced on a website and then on a national television news programme here this past week..
The failure of the two papers to report the accusations are now being cited by Republicans – the party to which Congressman Foley belongs and which is taking the brunt of the criticism – as justification for why they themselves did not step forward earlier and confront the Congressman.
Actually the two Florida newspapers were not the first to be taken in. In 1995 the Washingtonian Magazine ran a feature called “How to Date a Congressman” The woman reporter who wrote the story described meeting Congressman Foley in a Washington bar. She described him as “ tall and solid with sparkling blue eyes and subtly coiffed hair”. She went on “His wire-framed glasses lend warmth to his face. He was impeccably tailored in a Prince Charles plaid suit and a French blue shirt: He’s got real Palm Beach polish” Not a hint that he might be gay….