Mark Foley’s sexuality was never much of a secret to those who served with him in the House.
The New York Times and every major newspaper in Florida had been writing articles on the congressman’s agonizingly inept attempts to remain closeted for years. Indeed, it was the embarrassing manner in which he had attempted to cloak his sexuality that prevented Foley from securing his party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and again this year.
Tragically, as a Florida Republican, Foley felt that if he wanted to remain a political player he needed to live a lie. He was probably wrong; Republicans who have come out of the closet, such as retiring Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, have often thrived politically. Openly gay men and lesbians have been elected and reelected to the House as Democrats and Republicans, and Foley — whose relatively moderate voting record could have appealed to both Main Street Republicans and Democrats — might well have broken the barrier in the Senate.
But Foley didn’t trust Florida Republican voters to accept him for who he was, so this otherwise personable and capable congressman engaged in an increasingly challenging and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to hide a huge part of his identity.
The pressures imposed by such secrecy appear to have been too much for Foley. Unlike the vast majority of homosexuals — who, as a group, are less likely to be attracted to children than heterosexuals — the congressman began to engage in activities that were inappropriate and potentially illegal. Details that have surfaced in recent day suggests that Foley had made a mess of his life – a mess that exploded on him and his party when it was revealed that the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Missing & Exploited Children had sent “Do I make you a little horny?” e-mails to teenage boys.
Foley’s Republican colleagues, who are champions when it comes to shooting the wounded, immediately began trashing him. “This type of behavior is what I try to protect my grandchildren from,” snarled Clay Shaw, the GOP representative from a neighboring Florida House district. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, Mouse Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, issued a statement condemning Foley’s behavior as “an obscene breach of trust.”
“His immediate resignation must now be followed by the full weight of the criminal justice system,” Hastert, Boehner and Blunt said of Foley.