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Newspaper Outlets Withheld Reporting on Foley E-mails

Several news organizations knew months ago about the explicit messages that Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., sent to male congressional pages but decided not to report on them. One of the editors involved in the decision-making explains why.

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    Even as congressional leaders are drawing heat in the Foley case, many in the world of journalism are also looking at the story behind the story.

    It was ABC that broke the news last week, but it's become clear in recent days that some news organizations had information about Mr. Foley's e-mails months ago but decided not to publish stories.

    One such newspaper is the Miami Herald. Its executive editor, Tom Fiedler, joins us now.

    Mr. Fiedler, you were quoted in your own newspaper as saying that the Herald had seen some of Mr. Foley's e-mails, but that, quote, "the content of the messages was too ambiguous to lead to a news story." Explain that to us.

  • TOM FIEDLER, Executive Editor, Miami Herald:

    Actually, it was a single exchange, and this is the one that also was posted just last week on by Brian Ross that ultimately triggered, I think, the more outrageous e-mails, those that were described as the instant messages.

    We received a copy of this first exchange. It was between Mr. Foley and the former page for Congressman Alexander, which was described earlier as being the e-mail in which Mr. Foley asked a few questions, again, I think that could be taken as perhaps disquieting, but nothing sexually provocative.

    The congressman asked how he had fared during the recent hurricanes that had gone through there, asked him when his birthday was, what he wanted for his birthday, and asked him to send a "pic." I think that was the word he used. And the page ultimately described this later as — he felt it was a sick kind of an exchange.

    But, again, in the context in which we received it and in which we were looking at it, it seemed although perhaps disquieting — or to use Speaker Hastert's phrase, it appeared overly friendly — it certainly wasn't so overtly sexual in nature that I think you would immediately connect it to pedophilia.