West Palm Beach, Fla. Disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley said through his lawyer Tuesday that he was sexually abused by a clergyman as a teenager, but accepts full responsibility for sending salacious computer messages to teenage male pages.
Attorney David Roth said Foley was molested between ages 13 and 15. He declined to identify the clergyman or the church, but Foley is Roman Catholic.
He also acknowledged for the first time that the former congressman is gay, saying the disclosure was part of his client's "recovery."
"Mark Foley wants you to know he is a gay man," Roth told reporters as Republicans struggled with fallout from Foley's resignation.
Foley "does not blame the trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate e-mails" and instant messages, Roth said. "He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct."
Foley represented parts of Palm Beach County for 12 years until he abruptly resigned Friday after being accused of sending lurid Internet messages to teenage boys who served as pages on Capitol Hill. The FBI and Florida law enforcement officials are investigating whether he violated any laws.
The lawyer said Foley, who is now in treatment for alcohol abuse, never had any inappropriate sexual contact with a minor. "Any suggestion that Mark Foley is a pedophile is false," he said.
Roth also said Foley was under the influence of alcohol when he sent the e-mails and instant messages.
Asked why Foley did not disclose the abuse sooner, Roth said, "Shame, shame."
"As is so often the case with victims of abuse, Mark advises that he kept his shame to himself for almost 40 years," Roth said.
The communications were first reported last week by ABC News, which released more instant messages Tuesday that suggest Foley interrupted a vote on the House floor to chat online with a teen.
"I miss you," Foley said in one message, according to ABC.
"ya me too," the teen replied.
"we are still voting," Foley responded.
Roth said Foley was never under the influence of alcohol while conducting business on Capitol Hill, but he could not explain his previous statement that Foley was intoxicated when he sent the messages.
The race for Foley's seat has been thrust into the national spotlight as Democrats seek a net gain of 15 Republican seats to retake power in the House. Foley was considered a shoo-in for re-election before the messages surfaced.
On Monday, state Republican Party leaders selected state Rep. Joe Negron to replace Foley as their candidate in the Nov. 7 election, but under state law, Foley's name cannot be removed from the ballot even though he has withdrawn. Votes for Foley will be tallied for Negron.
President Bush, speaking at a Stockton, Calif., elementary school, on Tuesday said he was disgusted by Foley's actions.
The House Ethics Committee scheduled its first meeting on Foley's actions for Thursday.