Correction to This Article
A photo caption with an Oct. 6 article incorrectly identified Rep. Doc Hastings as a West Virginia congressman. He represents Washington state.
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Inquiry To Look At House, Not Foley

Rather than presenting Freeh as an appointee backed only by Republicans, Hastert delayed his remarks and dropped the idea.

At the ethics committee's news conference, Hastings said he thinks Hastert "has done an excellent job" as speaker but added that as committee chairman he would be able to render impartial judgments on the Foley affair.

The committee has a stormy history, in part because Hastert replaced key members in early 2005 as the panel was investigating then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). The committee was essentially paralyzed, but public furor over the Foley scandal forced it into action on a high-profile issue.

The four-person subcommittee handling the Foley matter consists of Hastings, Berman, Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio). Berman said that "we are dealing with a fundamental institutional issue" concerning the handling of information and warnings about Foley.

As he had done before, Hastert described the Foley chronology yesterday in ways that some Republican colleagues challenge. "Could the Page Board have handled it better?" he said. "In retrospect, probably, yes."

But only two of the Page Board's six members -- three lawmakers and three staffers -- knew anything about the e-mail to the Louisiana boy. Among those kept in the dark were Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Dale E. Kildee (D-Mich.). They have said they should have been brought into the decision-making process earlier this year.

Hastert was feistier in a Chicago Tribune interview published yesterday. "The people who want to see this thing blow up," he said, "are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros," a major contributor to liberal causes. "I saw Bill Clinton's adviser Richard Morris was saying these guys knew about this all along."

Morris is a former Clinton consultant who was been sharply at odds with the former president for years. Hastert offered no proof for his assertions, and Democrats called them absurd and laughable.

High-ranking House Republicans, after challenging Hastert's handling of the Foley matter in recent days, issued statements of support yesterday.

President Bush called Hastert last night to offer his support. "He's saying at this point that the speaker should not resign," spokesman Tony Snow said.

Meanwhile yesterday, a 26-year-old Atlanta man says Foley began sending him sexually suggestive messages and invited him to his Washington home after he served as a congressional page nine years ago. Tyson Vivyan said Foley began sending him online instant messages a month or two after his nine-month stint as a page ended in June 1997. Foley entered Congress in January 1995.

Vivyan's account appears to show the earliest exchange of suggestive messages reported so far between Foley and former pages. Vivyan said he played along at first, thinking it was someone he knew. After weeks of peppering the anonymous message sender with questions, he said he figured out who it was and refused to engage in the sexual banter that Foley tried to instigate.

"I had absolutely no sexual interest in him. He was a man twice my age," said Vivyan, who added: "I don't call my self gay, I don't call myself straight."

Vivyan, who is divorced, said he found the congressman's behavior "morally reprehensible" but tried to maintain a platonic professional relationship in which they talked about legislation and "votes on the Hill."

He said that in 1999 Foley invited him and another former page over to his home for pizza. Vivyan said they went and "everything was completely platonic and nonsexual."

Also yesterday, ABC News reported that three more former congressional pages have come forward to reveal what they call "sexual approaches" over the Internet from Foley. The pages served in the classes of 1998, 2000 and 2002, ABC said, and they do not want their names used.

Staff writers Peter Baker, Jim VandeHei, Jonathan Weisman and Allan Lengel contributed to this report.

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