Fox News Watch host Eric Burns stated that "the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald in Florida," as well as ABC News, all had "known about" leaked copies of email messages allegedly sent by former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to a 16-year-old male former congressional page, but he ignored a report that Fox News was also a recipient of the leaked emails.
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On the October 7 edition of Fox News Watch, host Eric Burns stated that "the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald in Florida," as well as ABC News, all had "known about" leaked copies of email messages allegedly sent by former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to a 16-year-old male former congressional page, but he ignored a report by the Associated Press that Fox News was also a recipient of the leaked emails. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has also twice said that Fox News received a leaked copy of the emails. On the October 4 edition of The Radio Factor, O'Reilly stated "Fox News got a hold of" the leaked emails; on the October 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly noted that Fox News "received the information," but decided the leaked emails "didn't rise to a story." Burns's statement came as he introduced a discussion of the House leadership's response upon learning of the alleged communications from Foley.
As Media Matters for America has noted, while the AP noted that the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald have acknowledged having received the emails and that both "defended their decision not to run stories," a Media Matters search on the Nexis database of Fox News prime-time programs turned up no references by Fox to the AP report, either confirming or refuting it. An updated search found no additional references during prime time to whether Fox News actually had possession of the emails, beyond the two mentions by O'Reilly.
As Media Matters has documented, many media outlets have continued to uncritically report Republicans' baseless charge that Democrats and the media are behind the Foley scandal, despite significant evidence to the contrary.
From the October 4 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor:
O'REILLY: If there was a cover-up by Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House, then it becomes huge. Then the whole Republican leadership goes down in the House. But that's not established. Nobody knows anything.
I've been doing some investigating, and you know, what it appears to be, is that this stuff was around for about nine months, and the original emails were being peddled by left-wingers to the St. Petersburg Times, Miami Herald. Fox News got a hold of 'em in Washington, a few other people. They were around.
From the October 5 edition of Fox News The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Carol Kuck, Fort Collins, Colorado: "On The Radio Factor, you said you would ask Brian Ross why he sat on the Foley story since August, Bill. Never happened. You were soft on Ross."
You missed it, Carol. Mr. Ross said that the emails he received didn't rise to a story. That's the same call Fox News made when we received the information.
From the October 7 edition of Fox News' Fox News Watch:
BURNS: Well, you know the story by now: Florida Republican Congressman Mark Foley sending sexually suggestive emails to male congressional pages. Foley has since [sic] that he is gay, he was sexually abused by a clergyman when he was a boy, but he has never had sex with a minor. But this is not just Foley's problem. It is also a problem for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who is under fire for not taking action against Foley earlier.
Neal, talking about not taking action earlier: At least two newspapers, the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald in Florida, and at least one network news organization, ABC News, has known about this -- not the most explicit emails, but relatively explicit emails -- for months and months and months. So, do we praise them for holding on until they had the absolute facts, or do we criticize them for holding on too long?