James Dobson and Daniel Henninger both echoed a claim previously made by Matt Drudge and Michael Savage that the sexually explicit communications that Rep. Mark Foley allegedly engaged in with former congressional pages were "sort of a joke" or a "prank" on the part of the former pages.
Commenting on the congressional page scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) on the October 6 broadcast of Focus on the Family, James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, declared that the Foley affair has "turned out to be what some people are now saying was a -- sort of a joke by the boy and some of the other pages" who had reportedly come forward with sexually explicit instant messages that Foley allegedly sent. Similarly, in his October 6 column, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger wrote that "a rumor emerged that in fact Mark Foley had been pranked by the House pages" and then added: "It is the first plausible thing I've heard in seven days." Media Matters for America recently noted that in defense of Foley's alleged actions, Internet gossip Matt Drudge and nationally syndicated radio host Michael Savage also attempted to shift the blame to the former pages who communicated with the former congressman. On his website, Drudge has elaborated on his suggestion that at least one of the former pages was complicit.
On Focus on the Family, Dobson was responding to a New York Times column by Paul Krugman, in which Krugman wondered how Dobson would respond to the Foley scandal given Dobson's earlier criticism of former President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. From Krugman's column (subscription required):
It will be interesting, by the way, to see how Dr. Dobson, who declared of Bill Clinton that "no man has ever done more to debase the presidency," responds to the Foley scandal. Does the failure of Republican leaders to do anything about a sexual predator in their midst outrage him as much as a Democratic president's consensual affair?
In response, Dobson again criticized Clinton and then suggested that the sexually explicit instant messages allegedly sent by Foley to underage male pages were the result of "sort of a joke":
DOBSON: We condemn the Foley affair categorically, and we also believe that what Mr. Clinton did was one of the most embarrassing and wicked things ever done by a president in power. Let me remind you, sir, that it was not just James Dobson who found the Lewinsky affair reprehensible. More than 140 newspapers called for Clinton's resignation. But the president didn't do what Mr. Foley has done in leaving. He stayed in office, and he lied to the grand jury to obscure the facts. As it turns out, Mr. Foley has had illicit sex with no one that we know of, and the whole thing turned out to be what some people are now saying was a -- sort of a joke by the boy and some of the other pages.
Henninger's column also picked up the rumor that Foley's purported victims were to blame, calling it "the first plausible thing I've heard in seven days." He also suggested that there is a "scale" of homosexuality in which one end ultimately involves a "compulsive, predatory sex offender":
We know when we're beaten. Bowing to the gods of the news cycle, let us undertake the great questions of the moment. Where does post-modern American ethics place Mark Foley's homosexuality on a scale of 1 to 10 -- a 1 being just another gay guy and a 10 being a compulsive, predatory sex offender? What might fall in between seems to have confused Denny Hastert, two newspapers, one TV network and the FBI. In the event, Mr. Hastert, as the point man, is being driven from office for having failed, in hindsight, to recognize the obvious.
By midafternoon yesterday, a rumor emerged that in fact Mark Foley had been pranked by the House pages. It is the first plausible thing I've heard in seven days. Four weeks from the election, I have an idea: Let's fire the Members and replace them with the pages. We could do worse. We are.
As Media Matters has noted, the claim that gay men are more likely than straight men to sexually abuse children, which has been forwarded by conservatives such as Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, is false.
Stephen Jones, the attorney for the page who reportedly originally came forward with explicit instant messages allegedly sent by Foley, told The Oklahoman that the suggestion that his client's allegations are a prank is "a piece of fiction," adding: "There is not any aspect of this matter that is a practical joke nor should anyone treat it that way." An entry on the ABC News weblog The Blotter also disputed Drudge's commentary:
An online story on the Drudge Report Thursday claimed one set of the sexually explicit instant messages obtained by ABC News was part of a "prank" on the part of the former page, who reportedly says he goaded the congressman into writing the messages.
"This was no prank," said one of the three former pages who talked to ABC News today about his experience with the congressman.