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Inside Politics

GOP campaign chief: Sorry for not catching Foley's 'lies'

Story Highlights

• Rep. Tom Reynolds: "More should have been done" about Foley e-mails
• Democrats' radio address attacks GOP on integrity
• Candidate Wetterling: House leaders ignored Foley's "predatory signals"
• Bush does not mention Foley in Saturday radio address
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(CNN) -- The head of the Republican House campaign committee apologized Saturday for not catching Rep. Mark Foley in alleged lies about his Internet exchanges with teen pages.

Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-New York, issued the apology in a TV commercial aired in his Buffalo-area district.

He also reiterated his assertion that he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, about Foley's behavior in the spring. (Watch how the Foley scandal has changed the political landscape -- 2:10 Video)

"I trusted that others had investigated. Looking back, more should have been done, and for that, I'm sorry," Reynolds said.

"I was told about odd but not explicit e-mails between Mark Foley and a page," he said. "I never saw a single e-mail, not one. Even so, I reported what I had been told to the speaker of the House.

"At the time, I thought I had done the right thing. I have since learned that newspapers in Florida and the FBI had copies of the e-mails for months and that Foley had been confronted about them and lied," Reynolds said.

"Nobody's angrier and more disappointed than me that I didn't catch his lies," he said.

The scandal appears to be damaging Reynolds' re-election bid. Independent analysts now rate his race against Democratic challenger Jack Davis as a dead heat.

Foley, a six-term congressman representing a Florida district, abruptly resigned September 29 amid allegations that he he wrote "overly friendly" e-mails and lurid instant messages to teen boys who served as congressional pages. (Watch how the scandal pushed a state legislator into a congressional race -- 1:34)

Reynolds said in his commercial that didn't learn about the sexually explicit messages until last week. Reynolds said those exchanges, which he dubbed "worse than anything I had heard before," prompted him to force Foley to resign "immediately."

On Monday, Reynolds said that Rep. Rodney Alexander earlier this year told him about Foley's e-mails to a Louisiana teenager. A Louisiana Republican, Alexander sponsored the teen when the boy served as a page in 2005.

Reynolds said he told Hastert about the e-mails because he thought it was appropriate to inform his "supervisor" about allegations of possible sexual misconduct.

Hastert has said he does not recall the conversation, but he didn't dispute that it took place. House leaders have said they learned of the e-mails in late 2005.

Kirk Fordham resigned as Reynolds' chief of staff Wednesday amid allegations that he sought to protect Foley from a congressional inquiry. The FBI interviewed Fordham on Thursday. (Watch how to protect your family online -- 2:15 Video)

Fordham, who also has served as Foley's chief of staff, denied the claim and said he was merely reaching out to the congressman, "as any good friend would."

Fordham later said that before 2005 he told Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, about concerns over Foley's conduct. However, in a one-sentence, written statement Palmer said, "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen."

Democrats go on attack

Reynolds' concession comes as Democrats used their weekly radio address to launch an attack on Republicans.

Patty Wetterling, a candidate for a U.S. House seat from Minnesota, said GOP House leaders ignored Foley's "obvious predatory signals."

"We need to stop the sexual exploitation of children across the country, and in Washington we must hold accountable all those complicit in allowing this victimization to happen," said Wetterling, a Minnesota child safety advocate whose son Jacob was kidnapped when he was 11. (Watch Wetterling accuse Republicans of turning a blind eye -- 5:15 Video)

"Foley sent obvious predatory signals, received loud and clear by members of the congressional leadership, who swept them under the rug to protect their political power," she said.

Her Republican opponent, state Sen. Michelle Bachmann, also has lambasted Foley, calling his communications with pages "unacceptable and abhorrent."

"It is an obscene breach of trust. He must be investigated, and safeguards must be expanded," the mother of five children and foster mother of 23 children wrote in a statement on her Web site.

President Bush did not mention the controversy in his weekly radio address, which touched on school violence and the No Child Left Behind initiative. (Watch Bush explain how No Child Left Behind needs tweaking -- 3:22 Video)

However, his GOP counterparts on Friday went after their political rivals, as party leaders in the House lobbed accusations that Democrats knew about Foley's message, but waited to release them until it was politically advantageous.

But the left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said it obtained the Louisiana page's e-mails in July and forwarded them directly to the FBI for investigation.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is a possible GOP presidential candidate, said Friday the release of Foley's messages was conveniently timed for Democrats.

"They just happened to be released shortly after Florida law kept [Foley] on the ballot and on the last day of the session in order to make sure Republicans were left in total disarray," Gingrich said in California.

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, wrote a letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and party Chairman Howard Dean, asking them to disclose whether Democrats played a role in publicizing Foley's correspondences.

Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider dismissed those questions, saying, "Republicans still don't get it."

"Every mother in America is asking how Republicans could choose partisan politics over protecting kids, and the Republicans are asking who could have blown their cover-up," she said.

The scandal has threatened the GOP's chances of maintaining control of both houses of Congress.

Hastert has asked the FBI to investigate, and the House Ethics Committee launched its own probe Thursday, authorizing four dozen subpoenas.

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Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-New York, apologized Saturday over the Foley scandal, saying he was disappointed "I didn't catch his lies."

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