Well, now, which is it?
In this evening’s painstakingly prepared statement by Speaker Hastert’s office on the Rep. Mark Foley matter, it is made to appear that the emails between Foley and the page were never passed on to GOP higher-ups by the page’s sponsoring congressman, Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA), in deference to the page’s family and their desire for privacy. But a report tonight from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Washington Bureau calls that account into serious question.
First, the relevant portion of the Hastert statement:
The Clerk asked to see the text of the email. Congressman Alexander’s office declined citing the fact that the family wished to maintain as much privacy as possible and simply wanted the contact to stop. The Clerk asked if the email exchange was of a sexual nature and was assured it was not. Congressman Alexander’s Chief of Staff characterized the email exchange as over-friendly.
The Clerk then contacted Congressman Shimkus, the Chairman of the Page Board to request an immediate meeting. It appears he also notified Van Der Meid that he had received the complaint and was taking action. This is entirely consistent with what he would normally expect to occur as he was the Speaker’s Office liaison with the Clerk’s Office.
The Clerk and Congressman Shimkus met and then immediately met with Foley to discuss the matter. They asked Foley about the email. Congressman Shimkus and the Clerk made it clear that to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and at the request of the parents, Congressman Foley was to immediately cease any communication with the young man.
Now, here’s what the Post-Dispatch reports, from an interview today with the aforementioned Shimkus:
Last year, the House clerk grabbed Rep. John Shimkus off the floor during a vote and said they needed to talk.
It wasnât unusual for the clerk at that time, Jeff Trandahl, to catch Shimkus, in the hallway or on the House floor, since together they oversaw the House page program and often had items to discuss.
This time, though, Trandahl had in his hand an email exchange between one of the House pages, a 16-year-old boy, and Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla.
Shimkus, who serves as board chairman for the House page program, read the emails, in which Foley asked about the boyâs well-being in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, what he wanted for his birthday, and for a photograph. (The boy was from Louisiana and had returned to his home state.)
Although there was nothing sexually suggestive in the emails, Shimkus and Trandal agreed: “That was enough for us to approach Mark,” Shimkus recalled an interview Saturday.
Soon after, they met with Foley and his chief of staff in the Florida congressmanâs office. “We basically said, âWe got these emails. And we donât think this is appropriate. … You have to stop (contacting this boy)â,” Shimkus said.
Shimkus told the paper that he thinks he did the right thing given the information he had at the time, though he regrets not having involved his Democratic colleague on the board overseeing the page program. “If I regret something maybe I should have had Dale (Kildee, a Democratic board member and congressmen from Michigan) with me because now itâs going to be a political football.”
On Friday night, the Post-Dispatch reports, Shimkus met with the pages currently in the program. Just days after “reading them the riot act” about behaving in the program, he told them: “Iâm embarrassed Iâm ashamed. This lecture I gave you I should give to my colleagues.”