AP’s Extraordinary Double Standard Regarding Mark Foley and Gerry Studds

Since the Mark Foley page story first broke, there have been many articles discussing the double standard in which Republican and Democrat sex scandals are handled by Congress and the media. No finer example of such hypocrisy has been demonstrated than by the Associated Press on Saturday, October 14, which had nothing but high praise for the now deceased former Rep. Gerry Studds while it continued to heap scorn on Foley.

For example, an article entitled “Studds, first openly gay person elected to Congress, dead at 69,” spoke glowingly of the former Congressman who, unlike Foley, actually had a sexual encounter with a seventeen-year-old male page in 1973. In fact, the AP suggested that this was an important moment in history for gay rights:

 “Gerry often said it was the fight for gay and lesbian equality that was the last great civil rights chapter in modern American history. He did not live to see its final sentences written, but all of us will forever be indebted to him for leading the way with compassion and wisdom,” said his husband, Dean T. Hara, 49, in a statement.

The article included some glowing praise from a current member of Congress:

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton), who announced he was gay four years after Studds’ disclosure, said yesterday his colleague didn’t let the scandal get in his way.

“It was very important to see, for young people in particular, somebody as capable and talented as he be openly gay,” said Frank, “That gave a lot people the courage to say, ‘I can survive this business in being honest about who I am.’”

In another AP article with a similar title, the AP downplayed the significance of the age of the “young man” Studds had sex with:

Hara said Studds was never ashamed of the relationship with the page.

"This young man knew what he was doing," Hara said. "He was at (Studds') side."

Fascinating. So, 23 years ago, the Studds matter was an important moment in history, and a seventeen-year-old was a “young man” old enough to make sexual decisions for himself. Yet, on the same day, the AP was not anywhere near as nostalgic or kind concerning Foley's behavior two decades later, and not anywhere near as supportive of a seventeen-year-old’s right to consent. In an article entitled “Speaker, majority leader have yet to testify about Foley scandal,” the AP painted an entirely different picture of this issue, including a depiction of Foley as "disgraced":

With the House page scandal weighing on GOP candidates, an ethics committee investigation will enter its second full week with many important figures still to be interviewed.

The panel has already heard from key figures, including a staff aide to disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley who said he alerted top House aides years ago about inappropriate behavior by Foley toward pages. It also heard from the chairman of the board that oversees the House page program, who conceded Friday that Republicans have mishandled the matter.

The AP also ran a story highlighting Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Massachusetts) views on this issue in an article entitled “Kerry Says GOP Lied About Foley, Iraq”: “Sen. John Kerry, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, likened the congressional page scandal to the war in Iraq and the handling of North Korea, saying that Republicans have lied repeatedly.” The piece quoted the Senator: “‘This issue is here because of a Republican cover-up,’ he said. ‘And those from the party that preaches moral values that covered this up have no right to preach moral values anymore.’"

Comically, at roughly the same time, the AP ran an article quoting the same Senator as having nothing but praise for Gerry Studds:

"Gerry was a stalwart champion of New England's fishing families as well as a committed environmentalist who worked hard to demonstrate that the cause of working people and the cause of the environment go hand in hand with the right leadership. When he retired from Congress, he did not retire from the cause, continuing to fight for the fishing industry and New England's environmental causes.”

What a difference a “D” makes!

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.