Former Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida Tuesday had second thoughts about the propriety of his accusation that Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, was inebriated while speaking on the Senate floor about health care on December 22. A video appears to show Baucus slurring his words, repeating sentences, and gesticulating widely in his address (click play below to watch).
Baucus has not commented publicly on the accusation, but his spokesman, Tyler Matsdorf, released a statement calling the accusation "beyond the pale," adding: "what is even more sad is that such a personal attack would be given any validity at all." (Matsdorf requested that his statement be published in its entirety, which it is at the bottom of this post.)
On Sunday night, Foley posted the Baucus video on his Facebook wall along with the comment: "breathalyser for members of congress." Five minutes later, Foley posted to his wall: "This is the senator that hired his staffer and then took her on trips...and divorced his wife....and they had me run out of town" But by 4 p.m. Tuesday, Foley seemed to have had a change of heart about whether he should be posting those comments about Senator Baucus' behavior. Foley posted on hisFacebook wall: "Yesterday's post about Senator Bacchus [sic] was inappropriate on my part. I have no right to make an observation about him or anyone else as it relates to their conduct or behavior. I was wrong. As I have stated over the past three years I have myself alone to blame...and I need not cast a stone in anyone's direction...I apologize to all who have every right to be offended by my comments." It is unclear whether or not Foley, who himself went to rehab for alcoholism, deliberately misspelled the senator's name, Baucus, as Bacchus, which was the Roman god of wine. Twelve minutes later, Foley added this comment to the post: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. I have never been one to attack others ... so I don't intend to make it a habit." Foley, a radio talk show host in Florida, resigned his seat in the wake of a scandal in which ABC News uncovered sexually explicitly e-mails and instant messages the congressman sent to former House pages. I know Foley from when he was a deputy whip when I was communications director for then Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).
On Monday, I e-mailed Foley to ask if he thought Baucus has a drinking problem. Foley responded: "I am in no position to judge the senators [sic] drinking habits, but it is clearly not advisable to take to the Senate floor for a major debate on health policy if you have been consuming alcoholic beverages to the degree it impairs your speech..."
My e-mails to Foley Wednesday to ask him whether he was recanting his accusation altogether -- or whether he was simply apologizing for singling out Baucus -- went unanswered. Here is the full statement issued by Baucus spokesman Matsdorf in reaction to Foley's original accusations:
"When his friend of 30 years Ted Kennedy, with whom he had fought so hard to provide health care to children, was being used as a cheap foil to oppose health care reform, Senator Baucus gave a passionate defense. Unfortunately, those who want to kill any meaningful reform, turned it into an unfounded, untrue personal smear internet rumor. This is beyond the pale and this type of gutter politics has no place in the public sphere. It is this type of slander that makes Montanans, and Americans, disgusted with the politics as usual in Washington. And what is even more sad is that such a personal attack would be given any validity at all, let alone being elevated to the status of "news".
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