Shepard Smith falsely suggested that the word "sick" was used repeatedly by a page to describe sexually explicit instant messages allegedly sent by former Rep. Mark Foley rather than less explicit emails that House GOP leaders have characterized simply as "overly friendly." In fact, an underage page described as "sick, sick, sick" the emails to which the House leadership had access nearly a year ago.
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Saying that he did not "want to confuse two things here," on the October 2 edition of Fox News' Studio B, host Shepard Smith appeared to do precisely that. He claimed that the 16-year-old former congressional page who received sexually inappropriate emails from former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) in 2005 had not referred to them as "sick." Smith asserted this in the defense of Republican House leaders who have stated that they had knowledge of the Foley emails -- which they have described as "overly friendly" -- but not the more explicit instant messages written by Foley in 2003. In fact, the recipient of the emails did repeatedly describe them as "sick" when he forwarded them to a congressional aide in August 2005.
On September 29, Foley resigned from Congress after ABC News reported that he had engaged in sexually inappropriate email and instant message conversations with underage male pages. During an October 2 discussion of the scandal on Studio B, Smith stated that "the emails are one thing, the instant messages were something else" and noted that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has said "very clearly the only thing the leadership or anyone else had seen was a series of emails." Guest Laura Schwartz, a former aide to President Clinton, responded that while Republicans have repeatedly referred to the Foley emails as "overly friendly," the "victim himself called it 'sick, sick, sick' 12 times." Smith replied, "This is not a soup. These are individual things. The emails one might characterize as 'overly friendly' -- that does not seem like an exaggeration to me. The instant messages -- that's another matter." When Schwartz again noted that the victim of the emails "said they were 'sick' 12 times," Shepard stated, "It was the victim of the instant messages who made the 'sick, sick, sick' claims, was it not?"
In fact, as Schwartz originally stated, the "sick, sick, sick" response came from the recipient of the purportedly "overly friendly" emails -- not the recipient of the instant messages. On August 31, 2005, the former page who corresponded with Foley via email forwarded to an aide in Rep. Rodney Alexander's (R-LA) office the email messages he had received from the congressman earlier that year. In an August 30 email to the aide, the former page excerpted some of the things that Foley had written and repeatedly wrote the word "sick" below. From the August 30 email:
This was the one he [Foley] sent about [another former page named] Will:
"I just emailed Will ... hes such a nice guy ... acts much older than his age ... and hes in such great shape ... i am just finished riding my bike on a 25 mile journey now heading to the gym ... whats school like for you this year?"
And this is the one about send him a pic:
"how are you weathering the hurricane ... are you safe ... send me an email pic of you as well ..."
Sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick ...
From the October 2 edition of Fox News' Studio B with Shepard Smith:
SMITH: Laura Schwartz, is there a Democratic accusation that there was a cover-up here? Are there -- are there -- are there -- is there evidence of such? And if not, why are the allegations there?
SCHWARTZ: Well, that's what we're going to find out through this Department of Justice investigation. You know, the story becomes what they knew and when they knew it. And perhaps if they knew this a year ago, as has been speculated in the media --
SMITH: But only speculated on. Denny Hastert says very clearly the only thing that the leadership or anyone else had seen was a series of emails. The emails and the instant messages -- search them online, you can find them, I am not about to read them here -- but the emails are one thing, the instant messages were something else.
SCHWARTZ: Absolutely. And you know, the fact is parents all around this country -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- wouldn't classify these as just naughty emails when it's their sons or daughters that may be online with a sexual predator. You know, Republicans are calling these "overly friendly," but the victim himself called it "sick, sick, sick" 12 times. So this has many tentacles, this investigation --
SMITH: You know what, though? I don't want to confuse two things here, and I fear that's what's happening. This is not a soup. These are individual things. The emails one might characterize as "overly friendly" -- that doesn't seem like an exaggeration to me. The instant messages -- that's another matter.
SCHWARTZ: When the victim himself said they were "sick" 12 times?
SMITH: It was the victim of the instant messages who made the "sick, sick, sick" claims, was it not?
SCHWARTZ: It was also the victim that called into Representative Alexander's office, who upon learning this, Representative Alexander -- and this is the Democrats' argument right now that you insinuated to. They -- Representative Alexander called Representative [Thomas] Reynolds [R-NY] -- the political operative, the head of the Republican National Campaign Committee [sic] -- instead of alerting leadership first. And even when leadership was informed, they did not conduct an investigation.