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Attorney: Clergyman molested Foley as teen

Story Highlights

Attorney says Foley was molested as a teen and is gay
• Foley never had sexual contact with a minor, is not a pedophile, lawyer says
• Report: Congressman had cybersex with teen before 2003 House vote
• Attorney: Foley will elaborate when he is released from treatment center
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WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Former Rep. Mark Foley was molested by a clergyman when he was between the ages of 13 and 15, his attorney said Tuesday amid allegations that the congressman exchanged inappropriate e-mails and instant messages with teen congressional pages.

Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned Friday amid questions over e-mails he allegedly wrote to a former page, asking the boy what he liked to do and requesting a photograph.

The scandal has been troublesome for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who has been criticized over his handling of the matter. (Full story)

Foley's attorney, David Roth, said Foley had never had sexual contact with a minor and said any assertion that Foley is a pedophile is "categorically false."

Roth would not release details of Foley's alleged molestation, saying only that making it public "is part of Mark's recovery" and that Foley would discuss it further when he is released from a center where he's being treated for alcoholism and mental issues. It will be at least 30 days before he is discharged, Roth said. (Watch the attorney explain that Foley is not a pedophile -- 2:07 Video)

Roth added that "Mark Foley wants you to know he is a gay man."

Though the attorney would not provide the religious affiliation of the clergyman who allegedly molested Foley, Foley lists his religion as Catholic, according to a congressional directory.

"He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct," said Roth, who spoke to Foley on Tuesday. "This was a life decision, not a tactical one made by others."

Asked why Foley waited to divulge the alleged molestation, Roth replied, "Shame."

Roth's announcement came shortly after ABC News published correspondences it said indicated Foley had Internet sex with a former page before going to a vote on the House floor in 2003.

The network published a partial transcript of the instant messages on its Web site but did not quote the exchanges in which it said the congressman and the high school student apparently had orgasms.

Former pages gave ABC News the transcripts, which were dated 2003, the network reported.

ABC also published the e-mails that triggered the controversy last week. Roth said Tuesday that Foley was under the influence of alcohol when he wrote the messages.

The teen who received the e-mails forwarded the messages to a congressional colleague, calling the correspondences "sick, sick, sick." (Watch a former page say she never got a "creepy feeling" from Foley -- 1:36 Video)

Soon after, instant messages surfaced in which Foley reportedly engaged in sexually explicit exchanges with a teenage male page.

In one exchange, Foley allegedly asked the boy, "Do I make you a little horny?"

President Bush said Tuesday he was "disgusted" by the accusations surrounding Foley.

"I was dismayed and shocked to learn about Congressman Foley's unacceptable behavior," he said while visiting George W. Bush Elementary School in Stockton, California. "I was disgusted by the revelations and disappointed that he would violate the trust of the citizens who placed him in office." (Read what CNN.com readers think)

Bush said that he supported the call by Hastert for a full investigation.

Top GOP leaders also have spoken out against Foley. Hastert, House Majority Leader John Boehner and House Majority Whip Roy Blount issued a joint statement over the weekend calling Foley's alleged actions "an obscene breach of trust."

"[Foley's] immediate resignation must now be followed by the full weight of the criminal justice system," the congressmen said.

Boehner, whose daughter was once a congressional page, added Tuesday that if he had known earlier of the allegations against Foley, "I'd have drug him out of there by his shirtsleeves."

Rep. John Shimkus, chairman of the House Page Board, has acknowledged knowing about an "overly friendly" exchange between Foley and a former male page. The e-mails, which occurred in 2005 between Foley and a page from Louisiana, were not sexually explicit. (Watch a timeline of how the scandal unfolded -- 2:05 Video)

Foley assured Shimkus that nothing inappropriate had occurred, and Foley was warned not to have contact with the teen and to watch his conduct around pages, Shimkus said.

The conservative Washington Times newspaper wrote in an editorial that Hastert should step down because of his handling of the incident, saying he was either negligent or "deliberately looked the other way."

Bush and Boehner came to Hastert's defense. Boehner wrote a letter to The Washington Times editor, saying, "No one in the leadership, including Speaker Hastert, had any knowledge of the warped and sexually explicit instant messages that were revealed by ABC News last Friday."

The FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the House Ethics Committee are investigating Foley's conduct -- and whether there was any attempt to cover it up.

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Andrea Koppel, John Zarrella and Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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