THE BLOG
10/11/2006 01:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Did The Media Kill The Foley Story For More Than A Year?

Guess who else, beside Dennis Hastert and the Republican leadership, has been covering up the Foley scandal? The Washington Post? A half dozen newspapers? Magazines? Websites?

More than a year ago, a source disgusted by Foley's behavior was going from newspaper to newspaper, to magazines, to websites with copies of the Foley emails and nobody would run them or investigate. The investigation would have been easy; dozens of pages and hundreds of Washington insiders had the story, or pieces of it - but no one bothered or else they were scared off.

In a fascinating article posted yesterday on the Harper"s Blog Ken Silverstein details how he got the emails in June, wrote a story and then had the story killed.

The final draft of Silverstein's story was set to run on June 2. The story reads, "Foley's private life should, under most circumstances, be his own business, but in this case there is a clear question about his behavior with a minor and a congressional employee."

The story's conclusion: "The possibility that he might have used his personal power or political position in inappropriate ways, as the emails suggest, should be brought to public attention."

Harper's didn't publish because the Editor felt, "we didn't have absolute proof that Foley was, as one editor put it, 'anything but creepy.'"

Silverstein was disappointed, but also relieved because there had been the possibility, however unlikely, that he would wrongly accuse Foley of improper conduct, even though independent reporting by Silverstein had turned up another page with an "unsettling encounter" with Foley.

What Crap!

A frustrated Silverstein passed along the emails and related materials to several people who might share them with other media outlets. He then learned the same information was all around and that other people were also contacting reporters. Silverstein's original source apparently had given up on getting the media to cover the story, after getting turned down by everyone.

Silverstein seems to defend Harper's killing of the story by mentioning all the other media outlets who had the story and dropped the ball.

St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald had the Foley emails as early as the fall of 2005. The Washington Post, Fox News, The New Republic, Roll Call and Time magazine, as well as Talkingpointsmemo.com and Americablog.com had the story and refused to go with it.

When asked about whether The Washington Post had the story six months earlier, Pat O'Shea of The Washington Post admitted they had the earlier emails (and did not publish), but not the IMs.

Neil Brown, Executive Editor of the St. Petersburg Times, defended his decision to kill the Foley story: "We paid for that restraint last week when we got scooped by an anonymous blogger - not a reporter."

John Aravosis of Americablog explains why he didn't go public sooner. "I had received the emails in July...but I didn't think it was appropriate to publish allegations of pedophilia/child sex predation...until I had all the facts. Shortly after I received the emails, I found out that CREW [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] had also received copies of the emails and had immediately passed them to the FBI."

The emails were first posted on a website titled Stop Sexual Predators. Foley's election opponent seized on it and called for an investigation. ABCnews.com ran with the story -- which turned into a political tsunami that led former pages to come forward with the stunning set of sexually explicit instant messages.

Executive Editor Brown continues, "Nobody in the news business likes to get scooped. We're not happy about it. We're also not alone."

He's certainly right about that. Apparently newspapers and the media are like sheep and only feel comfortable moving with the mainstream herd.

Why was the Harper's source unable to get any media outlet interested in a story that has now taken on global proportions? Was this political correctness run amuck? Was it a fear of appearing homophobic?

Those media outlets that killed the story say that the emails themselves were not completely conclusive. But backup and substantiation would have taken only a few phone calls. Dozens of Washington insiders and former pages were begging anybody to get the story out.

The Foley story - of at least a wannabe predator, who occasionally "got lucky" - was common knowledge in congressional corridors among the pages, the Republican Leadership, the House Clerk and many congressmen. How come all the great reporters couldn't check the story out?

What's wrong with these people? The more troubling question is: what other stories are out there that are not getting published?



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