WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Disgraced former congressman Mark Foley said through his lawyer yesterday that he had been 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 by a clergyman. He declined to identify the clergyman or the church, but Foley is Roman Catholic.
He also acknowledged for the first time that the former US representative 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 to avoid election-year fallout from the congressman's actions.
Foley, who is 52 and single, represented parts of Palm Beach County for 12 years until he abruptly resigned Friday after being accused of sending lurid Internet messages to teenage males 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 began treatment Monday for alcohol abuse, never had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor. ``Any suggestion that Mark Foley is a pedophile is false," he said.
He said Foley was under the influence of alcohol when he sent the e-mails and instant messages.
Asked why Foley did not disclose sooner that he had been abused as a teenager, Roth said, ``As is so often the case with victims of abuse, he kept his shame to himself for almost 40 years."
The lurid communications were first reported last week by ABC News, which released more instant messages yesterday that suggest that 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.