A sex scandal involving a former Republican congressman has sent shockwaves through America’s right-wing just weeks ahead of a crucial mid-term election. At the heart of the crisis: former Republican lawmaker Mark Foley, who was forced to step down last week following revelations he had been sending sexually explicit messages to teenage boys working for members of Congress.
While he has recognised sending the messages, Foley said through his lawyer that he was under the influence of alcohol when he wrote them, and that he had never had any inappropriate sexual contact with a minor.
In a further development, his lawyer, who ackowledged for the first time that his client was gay, said Foley was molested by a clergyman as a teenager.
US President George W Bush has expressed dismay and shock at Foley’s “unacceptable behaviour”.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republican leaders are now facing accusations they knew about the messages and failed to pursue the matter earlier. Hastert denies having any knowledge of the case before last Friday and is rejecting calls to step down.
The scandal provides the opposition Democrats with fresh ammunition ahead of a November vote for control of Congress.