WASHINGTON – Former Rep. Mark Foley was molested between the ages 13 and 15 by a clergyman, his attorney David Roth told reporters late Tuesday.
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Roth said Foley also wants Americans to know that he is a gay man. The former lawmaker was admitted on Saturday night to a mental health facility, where he will remain for at least 30 days.
"As so often is the case of victims of abuse Mark ... kept his shame to himself for almost 40 years," Roth said.
Roth said Foley wanted to release the name and religious affiliation where his alleged molestation occurred, but was advised by counsel to delay naming names. However, details of the clergyman, the timeframe and the situation will be released when counsel advises Foley to do so.
"Mark sustained trauma as a young adolescent," Roth said. He "attributes this to his inappropriate IMs and text messages, but does not make any excuses for them."
Foley resigned from Congress last week after news broke of inappropriate e-mail correspondences between the Florida Republican and a male teenage congressional page written more than a year ago. He had served 12 years representing the West Palm Beach district.
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After his resignation, more lurid instant messages, or IMs, between Foley and another congressional page dating to 2003 were revealed.
Roth repeatedly said that Foley never had any physical contact with either of the two boys involved in the online exchanges or any minor.
He also never had young teenage boys to his house to drink alcohol, his attorney said. In one of the IM messages now published, Foley suggested the teenager come to his Capitol Hill home "for a few drinks" even though he knew the boy was under the legal drinking age. "we may need to drink at my house so we dont get busted," Foley messaged.
Roth said Foley believes that he is an alcoholic and is now seeking treatment, and that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time he sent the e-mails and IMs.
"People close to Mark know that he was a 'closet drinker,'" Roth said, adding that Foley's admission "is part of his recovery." Roth said Foley wanted to thank the community for their prayers and support.
But Foley's trials and tribulations have extended far beyond his personal problems. The internal House GOP handling of the e-mails and IMs has led to a few calls for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign. Critics say Hastert knew of the e-mails but didn't treat the situation seriously enough.
In Tuesday's edition, The Washington Times called Hastert's actions inept and urged the speaker to call it quits.
"House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations — or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away," reads an editorial appearing in Tuesday's paper.
"They were protecting Mark Foley instead of protecting the children," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Pelosi said Republicans can't afford to lose Foley's seat, which was safe until now, because it would jeopardize their narrow congressional majority.
"They are so out of touch with the American people that they didn't even know that it was wrong to ignore the repulsive behavior of one of their members, a member of Congress who should be held to a higher standard. ... They thought it was OK to cover it up, so you make the judgment," she said at a Democratic campaign event.
GOP Rep. Chris Shays also said that anyone who "knew or should have known" about Foley's behavior, should step down from leadership.
"I will not vote for any leader who knew or should have known about Mark Foley's conduct," Shays said in a statement. "The FBI needs to interview people from both sides of the aisle thoroughly and conclude its investigation quickly. If anyone has committed a crime, he or she needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Hastert told FOX News on Monday that he wish he had done more with the limited information he had, but he would not resign. Hastert said Foley had been confronted in the fall of 2005 about his communications with one male page, and was told to "immediately cease any communication" with him and any other pages.
Hastert said his aides and Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., heeded the wishes of the parents of the former House page, who wanted such questionable e-mails to stop but didn't want the matter pursued. The e-mail had not been shown to Hastert's staff or Shimkus, the speaker said.
Speaking to Sean Hannity on his radio show late Tuesday, Hastert said that no one knew how graphic the IM exchanges were with the boy, and would not have put up with it if it were known.
"If I would have known ... Foley would have been out of Congress" and an investigation would have begun immediately, Hastert said. But Hastert said the e-mails which he had read did not suggest anything more than his being overly friendly.
Anybody who held onto the information "even for one day put kids in peril," Hastert added, a veiled reference to members of the media who may have had the IM exchanges, but didn't report them sooner.
The House ethics committee, meanwhile, scheduled its first meeting on Foley's actions for Thursday, in closed session. The House voted last Friday to direct the ethics panel to inquire into the matter. The FBI announced on Sunday it was opening a preliminary investigation into the matter.
With the November midterm election in five weeks and Foley's name still on the ballot, Hastert acknowledged that the district would be difficult to keep, even if people know that a vote for Foley would amount to a placeholder vote for his replacement, Florida state House representative Joe Negron.
As the speaker fights accusations that he was neglectful, some conservative groups have rallied around him. The Christian Coalition of America said it stands behind Hastert's investigation.
The conservative group Focus on the Family said leaders should have responded more aggressively to Foley's attempt to solicit a picture from the 16-year-old page in the e-mail, but hindsight is 20-20.
"We disagree with that, those calls are way overblown. Facts are still coming out. ... There were acts of omission," said Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery.
President Bush also backed Hastert. Using the words "disgusted," "disappointed" and "dismayed" to describe his reaction to reports that Foley exchanged inappropriate e-mails with a congressional page, Bush stood by the speaker as he launches a probe of the matter.
"I know Denny Hastert. I meet with him a lot. He is a father, teacher, coach; he cares about the children of this country. I know that he wants all the facts to come out," Bush said. "I'm confident he will provide whatever leadership he can to law enforcement in this investigation ... This investigation should be thorough and any violation of the law should be prosecuted.
Retiring Republican lawmaker Henry Hyde said in a letter to The Washington Times that it's important to separate the e-mail that Hastert and others got from the sexually-explicit IMs when discussing Hastert's future.
"Calls for Speaker Hastert to step down from his leadership position are an overreaction based on what we know. ... The e-mail was evidently determined by all to be overly friendly but not of a sexual nature while the text messages, just revealed were explicitly sexual," Hyde wrote. "It would be unfair to cast blame on the speaker and others in the Republican leadership for the despicable actions of one man."
But with all the finger-pointing, Republicans appear to be covering their own hides than looking out for each other. On Tuesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner told a Cincinnati radio show that it was Hastert's job to investigate Foley's e-mails.
Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, who runs the committee in charge of electing Republicans to the House, said while he was the first to learn of Foley's suggesting e-mails, his only responsibility was to tell Hastert.
Kirk Fordham, a Reynolds aide who used to work for Foley, told The Associated Press that he confronted the former congressman on on Friday when he learned the details of some of the instant messages.
"I said: 'Are these authentic?' and he said 'probably' and he confirmed that they were likely his instant messages," Fordham said. Reynolds immediately said Foley had to step down and GOP campaign aides drafted a resignation letter.
FOX News' Major Garrett and Cristina Corbin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.