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Old Rumors of Gay Sex Prove Powerful on Web

"When is the last time a congressman resigned over baseless allegations?" Rogers said. "If the congressman believes it is untrue, I welcome him to file a libel or slander suit against me."

Some political activists in the Hampton Roads area said it had long been rumored that Schrock might be gay.

Rep. Edward L. Schrock (R-Va.), who was popular in his conservative Tidewater district, had taken positions against gay rights. (The Virginian Pilot)

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2004 Va. Elections

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"When he ran for reelection a few years ago, there was a little bit of whispering," said Jim Polk, former vice chairman of the Virginia Beach Republican Committee, now working on the Ralph Nader presidential campaign. "Several Republicans were saying, "If that's true, we need to get him out of there.' . . . It just didn't go anywhere at the time. People were hesitant to bring it up."

Schrock's decision inspired a mixture of bemusement and anger yesterday in his home district, a narrow swath that stretches up Virginia's most southeastern corner and includes a large military community as well as a solidly Republican delegation to the state legislature.

The congressman was described by many of his constituents as an effective and likable lawmaker, one who showed up at civic meetings and talked to residents personally on a range of issues from development to immigration. He appears to have had a strong following among Republicans who identified with his military background.

Many of the nearly 20 people interviewed in Virginia Beach and Norfolk said they were disappointed with the way Schrock was forced out. Many said that they refused to believe the rumors and that there was no proof behind the allegations -- audio clips or not. But they said Schrock did the right thing for the local and national GOP by dropping out immediately to forestall any partisan attack.

"It's criminal that someone would simply target you to push their own political agenda," said Lenny Ransdell, 58, a wholesale buyer from Virginia Beach who was finishing lunch at Boulevard Pizza and Italian Eatery on the city's main thoroughfare, Virginia Beach Boulevard. He said he voted for Schrock in the last election and had planned to do so again in November.

"I'm disappointed because it's obvious that this guy doesn't have any proof," Ransdell said, referring to Rogers's Web site. "This is not the way that politics should be played. But then you have Schrock who did the honorable thing by stepping aside and thinking about the party first."

Several veterans -- a group that has given Schrock much of his support -- echoed those sentiments in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

"He did the right thing, even if they couldn't prove it," said Bob Brunner, 82, who was sipping a beer at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4809 in Norfolk. He added that he was a Schrock supporter, had voted for him and would have voted for him again. "It's just a shame," he said, shaking his head.

"All that counts is whether he performs his job," said Rodney Spenser, 60, who added that he thought the congressman should have fought off the allegations and stayed in office. "This guy didn't have any proof, right? Let him put some hard facts out there and then I might believe it. Until then: Forget it."

Even the blogger, Rogers, professed disappointment at the turn of events.

"I really, really am saddened," Rogers said. "I'm devastated that a man, because of his sexual orientation, has to leave the Congress. So I'm disappointed."

Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

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