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Hannity

'Hannity': Mark Foley Breaks His Silence

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," June 9, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: In September of 2006, Florida republican Congressman Mark Foley abruptly resigned after he was accused of sending sexually explicit internet messages to a former teenage male congressional page.

Now, within days of the scandal breaking, multiple male pages said that they received similar messages from Foley, one even claimed that he had sex with the former congressman. After submitting his resignation, Foley checked himself into a rehab facility for alcoholism, among other issues.

Now, this all happened just several weeks before the midterm elections that November. Now, five years later, he's here in studio.

Former Florida Congressman Mark Foley. Congressman, can I still call you congressman?

FORMER REP. MARK FOLEY, R-FLA.: Always do. Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: All right. Good to see you.

FOLEY: Thanks.

HANNITY: You have not done a national interview.

FOLEY: I'm not. And I didn't plan it for this week. We organized this prior to what.

HANNITY: We did but, you know, maybe it is -- you know, maybe there might be some insight you have that other people don't have. You know, I'm going to be honest. Because I interviewed you, you were a regular on our show for years.

FOLEY: Yes, sir.

HANNITY: I interviewed you on radio. And I remember at the time how shocked I was. Like a lot of people. And preparing for this interview, you know, when I went back and I'm reading this, you know, these exchanges with somebody you know is underage. And it is so explicit. It is a kid talking about lacrosse and his mom and soccer. And I don't understand this.

FOLEY: I wouldn't expect you to. It was horrific behavior, Sean. It was wrong. I was wrong. But that's all I can do. Apologize and pray.

And continue to work on the recovery. It is regrettable. I embarrassed my family, the staff, my constituents and the House of Representatives that I loved. I loved my job. I loved governing and being a part of the process. And I threw it all away. I have no one else to blame, but myself.

HANNITY: You did say you are mad at yourself. And you will punish yourself for the rest of your life. Do you punish yourself every day?

FOLEY: Absolutely.

HANNITY: How?

FOLEY: Just by reflecting. You know, any time there's a scandal, it brings back the horrific pain that I caused people that I love. And there is no excuse for it. So, as we go through this journey of life, we just have to, you know, pray every day that we are going to be a better human being. That we learn from these tragedies and these mistakes. And then go forward.

HANNITY: As I'm reading about this, have you ever re-read it?

FOLEY: Yes, sir.

HANNITY: You did? Recently, do you re-read it every once in a while?

FOLEY: No, because I've learned that, you know, I understand the pain I've caused. And I can't sit here and continue to torture myself.

HANNITY: What is -- maybe you can bring some insight to this. What is going through your mind? You know this is a young boy. It's a boy, it's child, and you were a congressman, you were the chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus.

FOLEY: Yes, sir.

HANNITY: You know, I've found some comments that you would made. And, you know, we're not going to allow them to voluntarily show up, et cetera, et cetera. We are going to track them like the animals they are. Were you an animal?

FOLEY: No, sir.

HANNITY: What is the difference?

FOLEY: Well, you learn again in therapy, some of your challenges. You know, I saw the computer screen, almost like a confessional in our church where you are spewing things out. And not really thinking of the consequences. But that's not a good enough excuse. At the end of the day, I'm at the board. And I'm the adult. I'm the responsible party. But I learned from that. And hopefully, the example, maybe that I set, maybe people will learn.

HANNITY: You claimed later and you went into rehab. Was it just for alcoholism? You claimed you were drunk at the time that all this thing happened?

FOLEY: No, it emanated from the sexual abuse that I received from a priest. I was 11-years-old.

HANNITY: Did you ever name the priest because your --

FOLEY: Yes, sir. Oh yes, the priest actually went on national TV and admitted it.

HANNITY: So, you believe that that changed you? Altered you?

FOLEY: Well, when you are 11-year-old and your first sexual encounter is with a priest. When you grew up in the Catholic faith and you were taught the lessons of the, you know, 10 Commandments, do not lie. And the priest tells you first that this is good. Secondly, he suggests, keep it between us. And if you tell anybody, I will kill myself. That's a fairly horrific burden for an 11-year-old.

HANNITY: Is that why you were a closet alcoholic?

FOLEY: Well, I think it adds to the secrecy of life. I didn't tell my family. I didn't tell anybody that this had happened to me. I didn't even go to the self-help book section. Because I was afraid of my political friends, I didn't want anybody to see me reaching for something that could give me some understanding of the trauma that I had suffered as a child.

HANNITY: Listen. I will concede, that I think, it has been fairly well documented, those that have been abused, often become abusers. Now, as you see this through the prism of five years, or the distance five years later, you were, did you ever have physical contact?

FOLEY: No, absolutely not.

HANNITY: There's a one case that they claimed you had? Is that true?

FOLEY: Never, a physical contact. OK. All of those allegations were disputed. Nothing happen to pages in Congress. Doesn't make it better.

HANNITY: But you are the adult, it's just like the priest was the adult. In that sense, do you think you became what you hated? Do you think you became.

FOLEY: I think to a large degree, you become, you know, a mirror image of something that may have happened. And that is not a good enough excuse. I'm not trying to say my incident with the priest led me to do what I've done. Because again, I should have, knowing what happened to me, sought some kind of counseling to understand the dynamics at play. Since then, of course, I've read every book about imaginable about what are the consequences of abuse at that age.

HANNITY: Do you still have this thought process? I mean, you recently spoke to the young Republicans at Palm Beach. Do you still have that though process that you had at the time?

FOLEY: No.

HANNITY: Was it only when were you drinking?

FOLEY: It happened late at night. It happened late at night. And it was again, you can't blame the alcohol. Because you still have to -- I mean, a lot of people drink and they don't do stupid things.

HANNITY: What about, what is, you know, you say you think about this every day. Not a day goes by you don't think about it?

FOLEY: Well, you think about what you have done to your parents. You think about what you've done to the people involved in your life. You think about the people on the other end of the conversation. So, if you are a responsible person, you just don't walk away and say, OK, I'm better, everything is good.

HANNITY: What are the other regrets? You let people down. It had a big impact that election year, at least I believe so. Disrespected your office, you know.

FOLEY: Well, the big regrets are things like the notion that was planned within the press. That Speaker Hastert and others covered my behavior.

HANNITY: Hastert never knew.

FOLEY: Listen, Denny Hastert was a coach like my father, a high school coach. If Denny Hastert was aware of these e-mails and had come across any information about these e-mails.

HANNITY: He told me in a radio that he did not know.

FOLEY: Sean, I wouldn't be going to an ethics committee. Denny Hastert would have punched me in the nose.

HANNITY: What about Rahm Emanuel would now found out that he know, that they had these a year earlier and they held it for just before the election?

FOLEY: The person who ran against me, Tim Mahoney went to a law firm, reputable firm and told them he had e-mails six months prior to the election.

HANNITY: It's pretty sleazy of Rahm Emanuel. Because I don't want to talk about this because this is a double standard, at the time Nancy Pelosi made comments, and she said at the time, they were protecting Mark Foley, instead of protecting the children.

FOLEY: Absolutely not. See, that is what infuriates me. John Shimkus, Speaker Hastert, John Boehner, these are not people that would cover if they knew.

HANNITY: They didn't know.

FOLEY: No, they.

HANNITY: But Rahm Emanuel knew?

FOLEY: I believe strongly, and I think people have said, who provided the e-mails to the DNC, that he had them. He was asked on "Good Morning America" or one of the shows.

HANNITY: No. George Stephanopoulos and he parsed his words, I did not see them. Were you aware of them? I did not see them. Were you aware of them? He played this game.

And then Nancy Pelosi went on to say they are so out of touch with the American people they did not know it was wrong to ignore the behavior of one of their members, a member of Congress who should be held to a higher standard.

They thought it was okay to cover-up. So you make the judgment. She said that about you. Now we've gone through this week with Anthony Weiner.

What do you have to say to Nancy Pelosi?

FOLEY: Nancy Pelosi has to say whatever she wants.

HANNITY: All right, we're going to come back. We'll get your thoughts on Anthony Weiner.

Coming up, much more of my exclusive interview with former Florida Congressman Mark Foley and much more on "Hannity" straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: We continue with former Florida Congressman Mark Foley. All right, so all those stuff. We have a ton of scandals. We've got McGreevey. We've got Spitzer. We've got Arnold Schwarzenegger. We've got Senator Vitter. We've got Senator Ensign.

We've got -- you know, you were in a sense early in this. Now Anthony Weiner is involved in this whole thing, sending pornographic material to strangers on the Internet. What are your thoughts on what he's going through right now and should he resign?

FOLEY: Well, I know what he's going through from the feeling of remorse because there's no question you feel terrible.

HANNITY: Is he feeling that because he got caught or is he feeling that because he feels bad about his behavior?

FOLEY: Impossible for me to analyze him. All I know is what I did when I looked in the mirror and was confronted with the charges. I first considered my family, community, my staff and the Congress that I loved.

Those were my defining moments of the decision I had to make.

Resignation was the only option, but I'm not suggesting had I waited

24 hours the leadership would have given me a pass. In my heart, I said, you know, there are consequences for your actions. You can't say, let me have a time-out. Let me apologize to everybody.

I had to step out of the process. I had to get help and I did. And I've recovered from that help, but while I was in the cauldron, I would never have fixed my life. I would never have fixed what was fundamentally wrong with me.

HANNITY: Maybe to give some insight because -- again, I don't understand it. You know, because you are a congressman sending out e-mails to kids. At some point, didn't it race through your mind?

At one point in the e-mail, when you're getting very explicit with a 16-year-old kid, he says oh my mom is coming in. You know, didn't you ever fear getting caught? Did you ever think this kid may -- this might get out?

FOLEY: I think if you had a fear, you wouldn't do it.

HANNITY: You didn't have that fear?

FOLEY: I don't want to diminish it. I think there's always a fear, but you are not in control of your behavior. You should be, but I'm saying, you are at a different place, inexplicable, maybe. But at the end of the day, I'm at the keyboard. I can't say it is someone else. It's not the person behind me.

HANNITY: I hear you taking responsibility. Is it the culture? You get in this atmosphere, people calling you congressman. They're looking up to you. They want your autograph. I don't know.

Is it -- you know, there's an impulse control issue that I see with Weiner. It seem like -- you know, it is so reckless that he's sending e- mails and explicit pictures and messages to people he doesn't even know.

FOLEY: I think it is a number of things. I think all day you are agitated. People so congressman you are the greatest thing we have in our community. Maybe there's a lacking there. Maybe it is an ego. Maybe it is an immaturity with this new technology.

I mean, I know in my heart I would never say those things if somebody is in front of me. The technology as I mentioned -- right, you are between a screen and you're -- like I said the confessional.

When you say things in your confessional, you blurt them out the priest on the other side of it says three Hail Marys, two Our Fathers.

Then you walk away, absolved or at least you feel absolved of those guilt.

The computer to a degree that same methodology and so I know in my heart I wouldn't have said these things. Anthony probably wouldn't either and that's the uniqueness of why this internet is trapping and capturing so many people.

HANNITY: How do you compartmentalize though being on this committee for exploited children and knowing you are doing this with an underaged kid, I mean, there's a disconnect.

I remember Jennifer Aniston once said about Brad Pitt is like a missing chip. I'm not playing psycho analyst, but it seems a missing connection here, you know.

FOLEY: Well, I think, you know, in your own mind you are trying to protect people. Having had something happened to you. You are using this platform, if you will to make certain similar 11, 12, 13-year-old kids don't get put upon and yes, there's a disconnect.

HANNITY: But then you are putting upon them.

FOLEY: Absolutely and that's what I'm saying that's the disconnect and that's where, you know, stepping back having to take the full responsibility for my actions. I hope I have achieved that. You know, I didn't sit there and try to run the clock out. I said, this was wrong and I resigned.

HANNITY: Do you think, as you looked at the election results that night, it was five weeks before the election that all this happened with you. Did you blame yourself? Did you feel you had a big part? That became the defining issue in that campaign, late in the campaign.

FOLEY: No question, it was a tipping point. I mean, we were 33 seats down in February. We had a lot of issues on our plate, Iraq and other things. I gave the momentum to that decline.

For that I regret it. I regretted hurting people. I regretted hearing people accuse a good man like Speaker Hastert of trying to cover for me. Those were horrific charges against kind people.

HANNITY: Do you ever think about the office? Do you disrespect the office because, you know, you're elected as a public servant and that went through your mind?

FOLEY: No question. I mean, you are 24/7. When people say it was off-duty. I was off hours. No, you are a United States congressman. I asked for the job, nobody forced me into it. That's again the disconnect.

The regrettable disconnect is that people back home counted on me.

I know this week we are sitting here talking about Anthony Weiner and all kinds of things. Somebody out there in America is working their third job today. They won't get to see this show because they are trying to pay their mortgage.

The nation is spending time. More get killed in Afghanistan, about our travails and our stupid behavior. That's what kills me. Or they attack somebody like Paul Ryan who is doing his best this generation to fix Medicare and Social Security. They attack him and claim he's evil and horrible.

HANNITY: The president himself is lying about it. What advice -- if you could tell Anthony Weiner if he were sitting next to you right now and said, can you give me advice on what I should do? Where should I go? What would you tell him?

FOLEY: I don't think I have the qualifications to give him advice.

HANNITY: You probably have -- having been through this, you probably do have the qualifications to at least give him your insight.

FOLEY: In my heart, you cannot fix this from inside that building.

HANNITY: He needs to go.

FOLEY: You cannot fix your problem. Whatever it is that is troubling him, beautiful wife. You know, wonderful family, a great constituency.

Obviously wasn't enough for either one of us. He's not going to get better going back into the building and hope people give him a pass.

HANNITY: What about you still obviously, Republican?

FOLEY: Yes, sir.

HANNITY: Conservative in a lot of ways.

FOLEY: I'm a libertarian.

HANNITY: More libertarian, but you align with the Republicans?

FOLEY: Yes.

HANNITY: And identify more with them, but they have a lot of different positions, definition of marriage, et cetera, et cetera. How do you reconcile that?

FOLEY: Without a problem. I believe every individual has a right to have various positions on issues. We are not monolithic. I know the party has issues and challenges, but when you look at the economic picture that our party presents, that's why I'm a strong Republican.

HANNITY: There was a call that maybe you would run for mayor of Palm Beach.

FOLEY: Right, Westboro.

HANNITY: Apparently you thought about it, at the time. Will you, have you thought about it? Are you open to seeking elected office again?

Do you think the public will forgive you? Do you think your constituents would?

FOLEY: Well, from what I've gathered from the early poll results, if you will, if I was going to run for mayor, there was a fairly strong indication that I would have been successful.

That doesn't mean I need to inject myself back into the political system. I'm doing a lot of charitable work. I've got a radio show. I've just come off the board of a bank. I'm back into businesses that I love.

I was an entrepreneur before I went to Congress.

HANNITY: Do you think somebody who sends e-mails and has instant messages with children like you did, should that be a crime, should people go to jail for that? Because, you know, one of the things you said you had to deal with is your exploitation. If somebody talks the way you spoke to these kids, should they go to jail?

FOLEY: No.

HANNITY: Should they be arrested?

FOLEY: No.

HANNITY: How do people trust people that talk like that with kids, how do they trust them around kids?

FOLEY: Well, I think, again, it goes to behavior.

HANNITY: You can write anything you want to a kid on the internet?

FOLEY: No, again, Sean and I'm not going to sit here and try and excuse my behavior. But should I have gone to jail? No, absolutely not.

HANNITY: Mark Foley, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

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