Oct. 4, 2006 — -- Despite claims by senior congressional aide Kirk Fordham that he notified House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office more than two years ago about possible inappropriate contact between former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and underage congressional pages, the Speaker's office insists it did nothing wrong in the way it handled the investigation.
"That never happened," Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean told ABC News.
But Fordham, who resigned as Foley's chief of staff to work for another member of the GOP leadership, Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., said that as far back as 2003, Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, had been told that Foley was too friendly with pages. According to Fordham, Palmer spoke to Foley about the matter.
Neither Foley nor Palmer could be reached for comment, yet Hastert's office disputes the account.
Fordham, who is openly gay, acknowledged helping Foley deal with the fallout from ABC News' story about obscene instant messages he had sent former congressional pages, but Fordham added he "did so as a friend of my former boss, not as Congressman Reynolds' chief of staff. I reached out to the Foley family, as any good friend would, because I was worried about their emotional well-being."
Fordham also contradicted stories circulating in Washington that he had tried to prevent an investigation by House leadership into any questionable contact between Foley and pages.
"I never attempted to prevent any inquiries or investigation of Foley's conduct by House officials or any other authorities," he said.
Fordham said he was resigning because "It is clear the Democrats are intent on making me a political issue in my boss's race, and I will not let them do so."
But the questions about Fordham's role were being raised just as often -- if not, more so -- by Republicans.
"Fordham had, for a while, a good idea of the Foley situation, and he tried to suppress it," said one former House GOP leadership aide, who would speak only on condition of anonymity. This aide said he had "complete confidence that the Speaker and his senior people didn't know about Foley's prefatory issue with pages" until last Friday.
The aide did say it was an open question as to whether the Speaker's counsel, Ted VanderMeid, knew anything before then.
Asked to describe the mood among the Hastert team, the aide said they were "frustrated" and "deeply disappointed that so many people are willing to throw Denny to the sharks," a reference to conservatives who have called for Hastert's resignation, as well as to comments by Reynolds and Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, distancing themselves from Hastert.
"Boehner's instincts are the same he showed back in '98," the aide said, referring to the time Boehner pleaded ignorance about an attempted coup of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and was defeated in his re-election to House leadership largely as a result.