Media focus on Murtha-Hoyer race, ignore Foley investigation's (lack of) impact on GOP leadership elections


In reporting on the Democratic and Republican House leadership elections, the media have focused heavily on the race for House majority leader between Reps. John P. Murtha (D-PA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) -- and many reports discussed whether Murtha's involvement in the 1980 Abscam scandal would affect the race, which Hoyer ultimately won. By contrast, the media have largely overlooked the fact that Republicans held their House leadership elections on November 17 -- before the House ethics committee was scheduled to release the results of its investigation into whether the House GOP leadership covered up the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL). News outlets have ignored this decision despite the House GOP leadership's acknowledgment that it had discussed a recommendation by House Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) to postpone the elections until after the committee releases its findings.

Foley resigned from Congress on September 29 amid allegations that he sent sexually explicit messages to underage former congressional pages.

The House ethics committee launched its investigation into the House GOP leadership's role in the Foley scandal on October 5 and announced that its findings would not be released before the November 7 election. As Media Matters for America documented, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) -- who was elected minority leader on November 17 -- gave conflicting accounts of when the House Republican leadership became aware of Foley's conduct. Hastert claimed that he was unaware of Foley's behavior until September 29, the day Foley resigned. Boehner, however, told The Washington Post that he knew of Foley's activities in the spring of 2006 and had informed Hastert. Boehner then changed his story and denied ever having informed Hastert of the situation, and then changed his story again, claiming that he "could not remember" whether he had discussed it with Hastert.

Both Boehner and Hastert testified before the ethics committee about the Foley affair. The Washington Post reported on November 6 that Cantor said "that the House Republican leadership elections scheduled for Nov. 15 should be postponed until the ethics committee delivers its final report." The November 6 Post article also reported: "House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) confirmed yesterday on 'Fox News Sunday' that he and Hastert have discussed that possibility. 'We'll see how Tuesday goes and then we'll make some decisions.' "

On the November 17 edition of C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus said:

MARCUS: But what I thought the caller was going to ask about and what I'm interested in is, where's the ethics committee, which leapt on this matter and conducted an investigation? And I actually had expected that we might see something from the ethics committee, in fact, before the vote on the leadership. In fact, Congressman Eric Cantor was visiting our office, and he said he thought we should hear from the ethics committee before we elected new leadership. The new minority leader, Mr. Boehner, in fact spoke to the ethics committee and explained his role in it. I'm very anxious to see what they have to say about the conduct in all of this.

A November 8 McClatchy Newspapers article reported that David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, "joined Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., in urging House Republicans to postpone their leadership elections until January," though the article gave no reason why Keene or Cantor supported the postponement.

Posted In
2006 Elections
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