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Cannon: Teens "egging on" Foley in online sex scandal
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Posted: 11:01 AM- WASHINGTON - Rep. Chris Cannon today attempted to clarify public comments he made last night seeming to blame teen-age congressional pages in the unfolding scandal with disgraced ex-Rep. Mark Foley.

"These kids are actually precocious kids," Cannon, R-Utah, told KSL Radio's Nightside. "It looks like uh, maybe this one email is a prank where you had a bunch of kids sitting [around] egging this guy on."

Cannon, who has defended House Speaker Dennis Hastert's handling of the scandal, also said Thursday that there's not much to do other than educate kids to the dangers of going online.

"Frankly, this is the responsibility of the parents," Cannon said. "If you get online you may find people who are creepy. There are creepy people out there who will do and say creepy things. Avoid them. That's what you have to do. And maybe we can say that a little more to the pages."

Democrats reacted to the comments with disgust.

"It's outrageous and irresponsible," said Christian Burridge, a Democrat challenging Cannon in the 3rd Congressional District. "You have a district here with the most children in the United States in a congressional district and we've got a congressman blaming an absolutely irresponsibly outrageous conduct that needs to be investigated on the victims. That sends a horrible message to the victims of sex crimes."

Cannon said Friday morning he was not trying to blame the pages whatsoever in the scandal where Foley is alleged to have had several sexually explicit electronic conversations with teen-age boys. Foley resigned a week ago after ABC News first reported the instant messages between Foley and a former page.

"The point of what I said is that institutions can't protect kids in a day when you have instant messaging and cell phones that do texting but also take pictures.," Cannon said in an interview Friday. "Parents need to take some responsibility and teach their kids what to do."

Cannon's remark about kids "egging on" Foley refers to an unsubstantiated report by the online Drudge Report that said an initial email cited in the scandal was a "prank." No other news media has confirmed that report, and since then three other pages have come forward to say they received lurid messages from Foley.

Cannon, who again repeated in an interview that "all kids" are precocious, said he doesn't see his comments as blaming the victims, but that parents need to be aware their children are technologically advanced, and need to be warned and trained in how to deal with online predators.

"This is not about minimizing Mark Foley, who really is creepy," Cannon said. This is "not about blaming kids. It's about warning parents and kids that they need to take responsibility in a world full or with an increasing number of predators."

State Democratic Party spokesman Jeff Bell posted on his blog that Republicans have been trying to blame Democrats for making the scandal political.

"Fine. Do it. I don't care," Bell wrote. "And, you want to know why? Because one of Utah's politicians said the most disgusting, irresponsible and overwhelmingly partisan thing about the Foley Scandal: Chris Cannon blamed the pages, the children..."

tburr@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">tburr@sltrib.com

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