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Earlier today, the Drudge Report published a story claiming that one batch of lewd IM transcripts published by ABC News were the result of a "prank" by a former House page. The former page, Drudge said, "goaded Foley to type embarrassing comments," which he shared with friends.

The story did not quote the young man, or say whether any attempt had been made to contact him or his lawyer.

Now, the lawyer for the former page in question, 21-year-old Jordan Edmund, says the Drudge Report article is false. Calling the story "a piece of fiction," Stephen Jones told the Daily Oklahoman that "there is not any aspect of this matter that is a practical joke nor should anyone treat it that way."

This afternoon, ABC News published news of three more former pages who had sexual online conversations with Foley similar to Edmund's.

The parents of the page who received the original icky emails that got Foleygate rolling submitted a statement to CNN this evening.

They corroborate Republicans' accounts that they did not want an investigation into the matter and call their son a "hero" for "[questioning] the intention of the e-mails."

Full statement below...

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Is Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) worried about damage in his home district from the page scandal?

Here's one indication that he is. Yesterday, his campaign paid for automated calls in his district in support of the Speaker. The calls were a counter-offensive against a left-leaning group that's been hitting Republicans nationwide on the Foley scandal. You can listen to a recording of the Hastert call here.

Earlier this week, American Family Voices blanketed some 50 districts with calls urging citizens "to call their congressman and 'demand he stop the coverup' of the Mark Foley scandal," according to The Palm Beach Post. One of those districts was Hastert's.

Hastert's call, recorded on an answering machine by a TPM reader, characterizes American Family Voices as "a liberal extremist group" deploying "untrue partisan attacks." The call also points out that the group is headed by John Lux, a former Clinton administration aide -- a fact that some conservatives have used to suggest that the Clintons are actually behind Foleygate. The full script of the call, as best as I could transcribe it, is below.

Hastert's opponent in the 14th District is John Laesch, a former intelligence analyst with the U.S. Navy. CQ Politics rates the race as Safe Republican -- but who knows? That may change.

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From ABC News:

Three more former congressional pages have come forward to reveal what they call "sexual approaches" over the Internet from former Congressman Mark Foley.

The pages served in the classes of 1998, 2000 and 2002....

"I was seventeen years old and just returned to [my home state] when Foley began to e-mail me, asking if I had ever seen my page roommates naked and how big their penises were," said the page in the 2002 class.

The former page also said Foley told him that if he happened to be in Washington, D.C., he could stay at Foley's home if he "would engage in oral sex" with Foley....

The second page who talked with ABC News, a graduate of the 2000 page class, says Foley actually visited the old page dorm and offered rides to events in his BMW.

"His e-mails developed into sexually explicit conversations, and he asked me for photographs of my erect penis," the former page said....

All three pages described similar instant message and e-mail patterns, with remarkably similar escalations of provocative questions.

"He didn't want to talk about politics," the page said. "He wanted to talk about sex or my penis," the page said.

The three new verbal accounts are in addition to two sets of sexually explicit instant messages provided to ABC News by former pages.

Thanks to a technical error on the part of ABC, bloggers recently determined the identity of one of the former pages who chatted online with disgraced former congressman Mark Foley (R-FL).

Last night, the Daily Oklahoman was the first newspaper to publish the name of the former page, now a 21-year-old Oklahoma resident.

The former page, Jordan Edmund, did not comment for the story, and the paper reported that he has hired a lawyer, Stephen Jones, to represent him. Edmund currently works on Rep. Ernest Istook's (R-OK) gubernatorial campaign.

Today, the Drudge Report has reported that two anonymous sources familiar with Edmund are saying that Edmund is not gay, and the IM transcripts published by ABC were a "prank."

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In a statement today tailored to deflect criticism of how GOP leadership handled the Foley scandal, House Speaker Dennis Hastert appeared to contradict a version of events explained by his close ally just the day before.

Hastert said that when the head of the House Page Board spoke with disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) in 2005 about the emails, he specifically asked the now-disgraced congressman if there were any others. According to Hastert, Foley told the board chair, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), there were none.

"[Shimkus] asked him if there was any other messages," Hastert told reporters this afternoon. "[Foley] said no."

"That's what we did, and the parents were happy," Hastert said, referring to the parents of the former page who'd received Foley's emails.

That version of events is squarely at odds with what Shimkus told the Chicago Tribune yesterday:

Shimkus acknowledged he did not ask Foley whether there were any other electronic exchanges with pages, such as the sexually suggestive instant messages from 2003 that surfaced on Friday and led to Foley's swift resignation.

Yesterday Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) criticized Speaker Hastert for not having done more when he found out about solicitous emails that Foley had sent a page. Today he's back-tracking, calling Hastert "an effective leader of unquestioned integrity."

Full statement below the jump...

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FOX News reports that Hastert's refusal to step down could cost GOP dozens of seats in the House this November:

House Republican candidates will suffer massive losses if House Speaker Dennis Hastert remains speaker until Election Day, according to internal polling data from a prominent GOP pollster, FOX News has learned.

"The data suggests Americans have bailed on the speaker," a Republican source briefed on the polling data told FOX News. "And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and 50-seat loss."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) made no mention of tapping former FBI director Louis Freeh to lead an investigation into misconduct with House pages in a press conference moments ago, saying instead that he'd reached out to Pelosi to "share some ideas."

The move had been reported earlier by Roll Call. Shortly before Hastert's press conference, MSNBC reported that when the Speaker told the idea to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), "Pelosi said that's not good enough. We don't want an overhaul of the page program; we need a more thorough investigation."

In his statement, Hastert said he was "looking for a person of high caliber" to lead a probe into the matter. "I have reached out to the Democratic Leader," Hastert said, "and we hope to resolve this soon."

"I'm deeply sorry this has happened," Hastert told reporters assembled outside his Illinois district office, apparently referring to the Foley scandal. "Our system obviously isn't designed for this electronic age of instant messages."

He insisted he and other GOP leaders "dealt with it immediately." He reiterated his claim that he first learned of the matter last Friday.

Still, he admitted, there was room for improvement. "Could we have handled it better? Could the page board have handled it better? In retrospect probably, yes."

In response to a reporter's query, Hastert said he wasn't stepping down. "I'm going to run and presumably win in this election, and when I do, I expect to run" for the House Speaker's seat.

The House Speaker used his responses to reporters' questions to reiterate GOP successes at the end of this congressional session; take a shot at former GOP aide Kirk Fordham, who says he told Hastert's staff in 2003 about Foley's problems; and insinuate that the Democrats had created the scandal because they didn't have a message to win the elections.

We'll be posting video of the news conference soon.