The controversy over a former Republican congressman who resigned amid revelations he sent sexually suggestive messages to male pages continues to reverberate in Washington and across the United States. President Bush called for a full investigation, as Republicans in the House of Representatives try to limit political damage from the scandal.
With Republican leaders trying to conduct damage control, a new blow was delivered in the form of a call by a key conservative newspaper for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign.
A Washington Times editorial said Hastert was "either grossly negligent or deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away."
Hastert has denied knowing that messages from former Florida Congressman Mark Foley, who resigned last week, were sexually suggestive or explicit and his spokesman rejected calls that he step down.
Speaking in California, President Bush said he was dismayed, shocked and disgusted by Foley's "unacceptable behavior" and urged a thorough and aggressive investigation. "I fully support [House] Speaker Hastert's call for an investigation by law enforcement into this matter. This investigation should be thorough and any violations should be prosecuted," he said.
The president went on to give a statement of support to House Speaker Hastert, saying he is sure the Republican lawmaker wants all the facts to come out.
The House Republican Majority Leader, Ohio Congressman John Boehner, reiterated the leadership's position that it had no knowledge of the sexually explicit nature of the Internet messages sent by Foley.
Had Speaker Hastert or anyone else known, Boehner said, they would have moved to expel Foley immediately and turn him over to authorities.
A Lousiana lawmaker, Representative Rodney Alexander, has said he first contacted House Republican leaders last year about Foley's activities.
And the head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, Congressman Tom Reynolds, said he alerted Speaker Hastert in 2005 that Foley's messages had caused "some discomfort" to a congressional page.
In a radio interview Tuesday, Hastert said he and others "confronted" Foley about his Internet e-mail contacts after receiving a complaint from the parents of a congressional page, and ordered him to stop.
As House Republicans attempt to limit further political damage five weeks before the November 7th congressional election, they face mounting calls for Speaker Hastert to step down.
Democrats cranked up the pressure, with House Democratic Leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, alleging that Republicans tried to cover up the Foley matter. "This is about everybody who had any knowledge of this member of Congress, doing something that is against the law and a Republican leadership, not just him [Speaker Hastert], protecting the political future of Foley at the expense of protecting children," she said.
Additional twists emerged late Tuesday, in a Florida news conference by the former lawmaker's attorney, David Roth, who confirmed Foley is homosexual and suffered from sexual abuse as a teenager.
Noting that the former lawmaker entered a substance abuse and mental health facility, he said Foley accepts responsibility, but unequivocally states that he never had or attempted to have sexual contact with a minor.
Foley, the attorney added, does not blame what he called his totally inappropriate Internet messages on the fact that he was molested between the ages of 13 and 15 by a clergyman, but declined to identify the person or offer other details.
Asked why this information was being released now, Roth said it was part of Foley's efforts to recover from alcoholism and mental issues.
Former Congressman Foley's actions are the subject of an FBI. investigation of his electronic communications with congressional pages, teenagers who perform routine jobs for members of Congress.