Harper's On Foley

Categories: News

Harper's Magazine just posted one of the most fascinating stories on the Mark Foley scandal to date (via Romenesko). In short, Ken Silverstein puts the lie to the Republican B.S. line that this was orchestrated by the Democratic Party. The source of the information, he writes, was a Democrat, but he wasn't acting in concert with the party, was genuinely disturbed by Foley's conduct, and the e-mails were originally leaked by a Republican.

How does Silverstein know all this? Because Harper's, like the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times, had the story. He wrote it up but the story was killed. Seriously, you have to read this piece. It's so full of good information I want to just reprint it right here in its entirety. When he talked to Foley about the e-mails months ago, the congressman told him there was "nothing

suggestive or inappropriate" about his emails to the page and that if the page "was intimidated, that's regrettable."

The writer didn't buy it. Here's his interpretation of the e-mails and Foley's office's attempt to keep him from writing about it:

My theory about the emails was that Foley was throwing out bait to see if the teen would bite. I spoke to a Foley staffer who violently rejected that interpretation of the emails and who blamed the whole problem on the page, saying it was all a misunderstanding due to the young boy's overactive imagination. The staffer also said that Foley's motive in asking the page for a picture was entirely innocent: he merely wanted an image of the boy so he could remember him more clearly in the event that he wanted a job recommendation down the road. Needless to say, none of this sounded even remotely convincing.


Agreed. Here's Silverstein on his own story and it's killing by editors.

The final draft of my story—which did not name the ex-page who received Foley's emails—was set to run on June 2. "Foley's private life should, under most circumstances, be his own business, but in this case there is a clear question about his behavior with a minor and a congressional employee," went the story's conclusion. "The possibility that he might have used his personal power or political position in inappropriate ways, as the emails suggest, should be brought to public attention."

We decided against publishing the story because we didn't have absolute proof that Foley was, as one editor put it, "anything but creepy." At the time I was disappointed that the story was killed—but I must confess that I was also a bit relieved because there had been the possibility, however unlikely, that I would wrongly accuse Foley of improper conduct.

While Harper's decided not to publish the story, we weren't entirely comfortable with the decision. A few weeks later I passed along the emails and related materials to several people who were in a position to share them with other media outlets. I subsequently learned that other people had the same information and were also contacting reporters. (By this point, my original source apparently had given up on getting the media to cover the story.)

Among those who received information about the story but declined to pursue it were liberal outlets such as Talkingpointsmemo.com, Americablog.com, and The New Republic (The Hill, Roll Call, and Time magazine also had the Foley story, though I'm not certain when it came to their attention.)

God -- why didn't this source get ahold of New Times? Are we and the Palm Beach Post and Sun-Sentinel the only news outlets that didn't get these things? Did the source have a problem with notifying any reporter who actually worked in Foley's district? Ugggh.

Great piece though.


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