Couric Leads with Six Minutes on Foley, Starting With Memories of Naked Back Rubs
Via phone, Couric talked earlier in the day to the priest in Malta. Citing a Sarasota Herald-Tribune article, Couric inquired: "According to this newspaper account, it also says that you massaged him when he was naked, and you were naked in the same room on overnight trips." Father Anthony Mercieca replied: "He'll stay with his towel on and go on the bench and I will massage his neck and his back." Couric remarked that “this was probably the weirdest interview I've ever done” -- raising the unanswered question of why she considered the 72-year-old's memories of back massages the lead story of the day -- before moving on to Gloria Borger for a full story on testimony before the ethics committee.
Couric teased at the top of her newscast, with “Foley Scandal” on screen:
“Tonight, the priest at the center of the Mark Foley scandal is identified and tells me his side of the story. Did he abuse the former Congressman when he was just a boy?”Couric then opened the October 19 CBS Evening News:
"Hi, everyone. A stunning development tonight in the congressional page scandal, and you may not want your young children to hear the story we're about to tell. The priest Mark Foley accused of molesting him as a child has come forward. Now retired, the priest admits that he and Foley, then barely a teenager, were naked together in a sauna, but he says, quote, 'Everybody does that.' I reached the priest today by telephone.
“Speaking from the Maltese island of Gozo, Father Anthony Mercieca talked about his relationship with the former Congressman. At the time, Foley was a 13-year-old altar boy at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth, Florida. The priest's story first appeared in today's Sarasota Herald Tribune. I spoke with him by phone this morning."
Couric to Mercieca: "In this article, you described a number of encounters that you believe Mark Foley might have misconstrued as sexually inappropriate. Can you describe some of those for us?"
Audio of Mercieca, with text on screen: “No. We used to go to the sauna bath, you know, and we used to go to take a bath, you know.”
Couric: "According to this newspaper account, it also says that you massaged him when he was naked, and you were naked in the same room on overnight trips."
Mercieca: “He'll stay with his towel on and go on the bench and I will massage his neck and his back.”
Couric: "When Foley first claimed a priest had molested him, there was widespread skepticism that he was using the so-called 'abuse excuse' to avoid responsibility for his own inappropriate behavior. But Father Mercieca confirmed intimate encounters with Foley including one during which Mercieca says he took so many pills that something might have happened. He can't recall."
Couric: "And what happened?"
Mercieca: “That's what I can't remember, you know. And I guess that's what maybe Mark is thinking that was something bad.”
Couric: "Were you involved in these kinds of encounters with anyone else in the parish?"
Mercieca: “No. Never.”
Couric: "What actions do you think will be taken by the Catholic Church in light of these revelations?"
Mercieca: “I don't know. These are 40 years old. So really, it's, there is a limit too.”
Couric: "This was probably the weirdest interview I've ever done. What do you make of this priest and his account?"
David Gibson, religion writer: "Well, these pedophiles, these child abusers are by definition almost self-delusional."
Couric: "David Gibson has written extensively about the scandal that has plagued the Catholic church. This priest was moved around to six parishes."
Gibson: "This is a big question that still has to be fully answered: Who knew what and when?"
Couric: "Some former parishioners were shocked."
Woman: "It makes you question, you know, just your dealings with anyone in this world, really. I don't think that, I mean, to me he was really great. But you never know, you know, I mean, you never know who's telling the truth in this situation, so you just have to hope for the best."
Couric: "You can understand why this would be very upsetting to Mark Foley?"
Mercieca: “I can't because for 40 years it didn't bother him. Now how come it bothers him?”
Couric: "But, Father, he was a teenage altar boy."
Mercieca: “Well now, that's the story.”
Couric: "By the way, Foley's attorney has said the former Congressman is not using what happened to him as a child as an excuse for what he did as an adult, sending sexually explicit e-mails to former House pages. His actions are the focus of an ongoing investigation by the House ethics committee. Gloria Borger is in our Washington bureau tonight and has some exclusive information. Gloria, what can you tell us?"
Gloria Borger: "Katie, as it turns out, former Congressman Foley spoke about this abuse three years ago in a meeting with a top aide."...
Borger proceeded to report on the appearance by the former Clerk of the House before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
The CBSNews.com posting of a transcript of the entire Couric interview with Merciera.