On the "Foley fallout" beat on Day 3, ABC's Good Morning America turned to their sex-scandal expert (and oh, the sex scandals he's spun for Bill Clinton!) George Stephanopoulos. MRC's Justin McCarthy reports the Foley story was still a major hurricane headed to blow away Republicans, and was coming to shore:
Roberts: For more on the fallout on this we go to ABC chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos who is also the host, of course, of 'This Week.' George, when I talked to you earlier this week when this story broke, you said it was a category three political hurricane for Republicans. Has it intensified since then?"
George Stephanopoulos: "Still a strong category three, Robin. The problem for Republicans is that the storm is closer to shore. The story's almost a week old now, we're that much closer to election day and the Republican leadership hasn't found an effective way to contain the story."
In other words, they have yet to find an effective way to contain George Stephanopoulos, and other media liberals furiously flacking this scandal. And then:
Roberts: "Talking about Republican leadership, of course, the Speaker has been under fire, especially when we learn more and more that there have been concern about Foley's behavior for quite some time. So is the Speaker's House in jeopardy? Job in jeopardy, I should say."
Stephanopoulos: "Oh, it sure is. He's hanging by a thread right now Robin. As you know he's fighting very, very hard. He says he's not going to resign, and most Republicans in the House and the White House feel that forcing him out now would cause chaos and could make the problem worse. But with these new stories coming out this morning that Congressman Foley's attraction to young pages had been known for a long time on Capitol Hill, I think the chances that Speaker Hastert will return as Speaker next year are almost zero. Even if Republicans retain control of the House, I don't think his caucus will return him as Speaker."
Roberts: "We asked Speaker Hastert to appear on 'Good Morning America,' we have a few times now and he has always politely declined. But, he did go on talk radio yesterday and he blamed Democrats for the uproar. Let's take a listen."
Speaker Dennis Hastert: "There are some people that try to tear us down. We are the insulation to protect this country, and if they get to me it looks like they could affect our election as well.
Roberts: "George, is it possible voters will blame Democrats for this? For this uproar?"
Stephanopoulos: "It if turns out that this was a Democratic dirty trick, that it came from Democrats, that could muddy the waters somewhat. But, right now the Democrats are really on the offensive on this issue. I've talked to Democrat and Republican strategists. They think this is, could have already given them 10 to 12 of the 15 seats they need. And they're going to continue to press this with ads, with radio addresses, with calls for Republicans to return Mark Foley's money straight up to election day."
It's important to note that a lot of the Foley "news" in this cycle is a frenzy of guessing about what happens next, and not a reflection on the facts collected on the past. In his report today, Brian Ross focused (in an indirect way) on his online report that Foley had online sex around a House vote:
Ross: "At least one of the sexually explicit messages was sent just six minutes before Foley cast a vote on the floor of the House in April 2003, meaning he must have been under the influence of alcohol when he voted. Foley's lawyer also denied the Congressman had ever had any sexual contact with any minor or provided alcohol to any of the pages at his home, which would be violations of the law."
Roth: "I have absolutely no reason to believe that Mark Foley has ever had teenage boys at his house to have alcohol."
Ross: "But new instant messages provided to ABC News by former pages suggest otherwise. Writing as 'maf54,' there is this message: 'you're not old enough to drink,' 'shhh,' 'ok,' 'I probably shouldn't be telling you that huh,' 'we may need to drink at my house so we don't get busted.' That would seem to contradict what Foley's lawyer has said in an obvious attempt to build a legal defense for his client should criminal charges be brought, Robin."
Roberts: "Brian, is there any way for the FBI to see if he sent any other messages?"
Ross: "Well, the FBI may be able to obtain e-mails but, the instant messages are not maintained, are not kept over the number of years, so only the sender and the recipient may have records of those. Some of the pages did keep records of his lurid descriptions back and forth. But, other than that, the FBI will have to, they won't be able to get them."