Majority leader John Boehner’s office has sent out an email pointing out that the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald didn’t run with the Foley story based on the “overly friendly” email, that they’re defending that decision now, and that the Herald is using its experience to argue that the Republicans are being unfairly criticized.
“Given the potentially devastating impact that a false suggestion of pedophilia could have on anyone, not to mention a congressman known to be gay, and lacking any corroborating information, we chose not to do a story,” said Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the Herald.
I’m not sure why Boehner is running a defense of what looks like Hastert’s screw-ups (or worse). But this defense is not going to work. The Republican leaders cannot hide behind the Florida papers. Leaving aside the merits for a second, the argument that they had to be concerned about the impact of a false story on Foley is going to look like retrospective coddling of him. Republicans shouldn’t be making any argument now that smacks of leniency toward him.
On the merits, of course the possibility of a false charge is a consideration that conscientious people have to consider. But the possibility of pedophilia is a pretty serious consideration on the other side of the balance. There may not have been enough to report, but there was enough to investigate.
(Note: My wife works for Roy Blunt, who ran against Boehner for the majority leader position, but that really has nothing to do with my reasons for thinking this is a mistake by Boehner’s staff.)