WASHINGTON - Rep. John Shimkus on Tuesday
angrily defended himself against accusations he
didn't thoroughly investigate the inappropriate
e-mails from then-Rep. Mark Foley to a former
teenage page last fall.
"This is so ludicrous and so ridiculous that
people are asking me to have more information on
law enforcement than the FBI or credible
investigative journalists, who decided they
didn't have enough information to proceed,"
Shimkus said in a phone interview late Tuesday.
He spoke one day after making a more limited
public statement to reporters at the Capitol.
The Collinsville Republican, who heads the
three-member panel in charge of the House page
program, said he was respecting the wishes of
the boy's parents when he spoke with Foley
privately about the matter without informing
others on the panel. That was almost a year
before more sexually explicit instant messages
from Foley to another former page became public,
forcing the Florida Republican's resignation.
Shimkus said he didn't inform the other two
members of the House Page Board "because it
didn't rise to the level of what I needed
consensus for on the Page Board. It did not rise
to the level of expulsion, where we expel kids,
when we have to do big things.
"We were asked for discretion by the parents,
and I wanted to respect the wishes of the
The former page's parents have not spoken out
publicly since the scandal broke.
Shimkus said he immediately confronted Foley
last fall after the House clerk gave him the
text of the e-mail from the six-term
congressman, requesting a photo of the
16-year-old former page. The portion of the
e-mail he saw did not contain explicit sexual
content, although he acknowledged "it must have
sent up a red flag to the parents, who asked me
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, told
talk show host Rush Limbaugh Tuesday, "We didn't
know what the text of that message was because
the parents held it, and they didn't want it
revealed." It wasn't clear to whom Hastert was
Shimkus said he only received the text of the
e-mail provided by the parents to the House
clerk, and it didn't identify the sender or
"What I was asked to do was confront Mark
Foley based upon parental concern based on this
one e-mail," Shimkus said, adding that the
parents wanted someone to tell Foley to leave
their son alone, but that he went beyond that by
telling Foley to "stay away from the pages."
Shimkus and Hastert have said they learned of
the sexually explicit instant messages, which
are different from the e-mail Shimkus was
referring to, Friday when the first news reports
came out about them. Foley resigned the same
At least two Florida newspapers have
acknowledged they received copies of e-mails
sent by Foley last year, but decided it wasn't
enough to publish a story that could destroy his
Conservative Republicans and Democrats have
criticized Shimkus and Hastert for not
investigating the initial complaint more
In the interview Tuesday, Shimkus responded
tersely to a suggestion by Sen. Dick Durbin,
D-Ill., that Shimkus should resign as head of
the House Page Board.
"Senator Durbin ought to keep his nose out of
House business and be the Democratic leader of
the minority party in the Senate," Shimkus said.
The other two members of the House Page Board
- one Democrat, one Republican - have complained
that they weren't informed of the parents'
concerns at the time.
Asked whether that made it look like a
political cover-up, Shimkus said: "Bull--, what
I regret is that now it's used for the political
expediency, for a political agenda by the
Democrats. Anybody who knows me knows that I
wouldn't do anything to assault or hurt these
"I put more time in to protect these kids
than anyone. For these people to try to take me
down because of this is unconscionable. They
ought to be ashamed of themselves. For my former
friends who are Democrats and who are leading
this charge, I know what their true values are."
Shimkus accused the media of falling for what
he said is a pre-election Democratic ploy.
"You're feeding right into the Democrats. You
ought to be ashamed of yourselves. This is an
October surprise, and you guys have fallen hook,
line and sinker for it," Shimkus said.
The Arlington Group, a coalition of prominent
conservatives who normally support Republicans,
issued a statement Tuesday expressing concern
that "the early warnings of Mr. Foley's odd
behavior toward young male pages may have been
overlooked or treated with deference, fearing a
backlash from the radical gay rights movement
because of Mr. Foley's sexual orientation."