NPR did not challenge Reynolds claim in ad -- refuted by Hastert -- taking credit for Foley resignation


NPR uncritically aired portions of an ad in which Rep. Thomas Reynolds took credit for "forc[ing]" former Rep. Mark Foley to resign after learning of alleged explicit Internet communications between Foley and a former congressional page. In fact, Foley resigned after ABC News informed Foley that it was going to make the explicit messages public, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert has previously denied that the House leadership was responsible for Foley's resignation.

In an October 11 Morning Edition report about congressional Republican campaign ads addressing the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), National Public Radio (NPR) uncritically aired portions of a political ad by Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-NY) in which Reynolds took credit for "forc[ing] [Foley] to resign" after learning of explicit Internet communications that allegedly occurred between Foley and a former congressional page. In fact, as Media Matters noted, Foley resigned after ABC News obtained the sexually explicit instant messages and informed Foley that it was going to make them public. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) denied that the House leadership was responsible for Foley's resignation, though he, too, later claimed credit.

In the excerpt of the ad aired by NPR, Reynolds claims to have "reported what I'd been told" about emails Foley allegedly sent to the underage pages, and then "forced [Foley] to resign" when learning months later of the instant messages, which Reynolds described in the ad as "worse emails." But when asked in an October 2 press conference "whether the leadership asked Foley to resign," Hastert responded: "I think Foley resigned almost immediately upon the outbreak of this information, and so we really didn't have a chance to ask him to resign." Hastert contradicted that claim the next day on Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio show, claiming that "[w]e took care of Mr. Foley" and that "[w]e ... asked him to resign."

Moreover, reporter Luke Burbank did not note other action or inaction by Reynolds and other House leaders after being told months ago of the alleged emails: They allowed Foley to retain his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee and his position as co-chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus; Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, reportedly persuaded Foley to seek re-election; and the NRCC accepted $100,000 in contributions from Foley's political action committee.

From the October 11 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition:

BURBANK: Apologizing is almost never fun, even under the best of circumstances. But imagine spending $200,000 to tell the voters of your district that you messed up. Republican Tom Reynolds of New York knows how it feels, because that's how he spent last weekend.

REYNOLDS [audio clip]: This spring I was told about odd, but not explicit emails from Mark Foley. Even though I never saw the emails, I reported what I'd been told.

BURBANK: In the TV spot, a visibly humbled Reynolds takes the voters of western New York state through his version of events.

REYNOLDS [audio clip]: Later, worse emails were revealed, so I forced him to resign.

BURBANK: Before finally issuing his mea culpa.

REYNOLDS [audio clip]: I'm disappointed I didn't catch his lies before. For that I'm sorry.

BURBANK: Reynolds chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, which makes him one of the most powerful guys in Congress. Even before the Foley scandal broke, though, he was in a tight re-election race. But post-Foley, things have gotten worse, with Reynolds trailing his opponent by double digits in some polls. He's hoping his apology puts the issue behind him.

Luke Burbank
Morning Edition
Mark Foley Scandal, 2006 Elections
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