By KEVIN NAFF | Jun 6, 3:44 PM
Jeff Trandahl, the gay former clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, broke his public silence on the Mark Foley scandal last week in brief remarks.
Speaking on a panel discussion related to gay rights on the first all-gay trans-Atlantic crossing aboard the Queen Mary 2, Trandahl said he had “dozens” of confrontations with Foley over the years.
Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned from Congress, came out as gay and entered a rehab facility after sexually explicit text messages he sent to male congressional pages were made public by former Human Rights Campaign employee Lane Hudson. Foley has not spoken publicly about the scandal, leading many to speculate that he is working on a book about the ordeal. The Florida Attorney General’s office and the FBI continue to consider whether to charge Foley with a crime.
As clerk from 1998 through November 2005, Trandahl had oversight authority over the page program. House investigators have said Trandahl repeatedly urged staff members of House GOP leaders to rein in Foley’s inappropriate behavior.
Trandahl told an audience of about 250 gays and lesbians at the Queen Mary 2 discussion that he confronted Foley again after learning of the text messages.
“Foley was a ticking time bomb,” Trandahl said. “His case shows how dangerous closeted gays can be for openly gay people.”
Trandahl noted that he opposes outing public officials, but said that it is important for gays and lesbians to be out at work.
Trandahl also criticized mainstream media coverage of the Foley scandal, saying he was demonized and referred to as an “evil pedophile” in some accounts.
Longtime Democratic political strategist and AIDS activist David Mixner, who also spoke on the panel, praised Trandahl’s handling of the controversy.
Mixner said the mainstream media were on the verge of a “witch hunt” for the “velvet mafia” in the aftermath of the Foley revelations.
“Part of why we avoided a witch hunt was Jeff Trandahl,” Mixner said.
Trandahl, a Republican, now holds the post of executive director of the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and is a member of the board of the Human Rights Campaign. Trandahl and his spokesperson, John Butler, a former officer with the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, have declined to comment on anything associated with the Foley matter since the scandal broke late last year.
Trandahl resigned from his post as House clerk and announced his new job in the fall of 2005, shortly after he began questioning Foley’s behavior toward pages in private conversations with both Foley and House GOP staffers. In his remarks last week, Trandahl refuted the speculation that GOP leaders forced him out of his job.
He said he had long planned to retire after 20 years of government service and noted that his departure was set well before the scandal broke. Trandahl thanked former House Speakers Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for supporting him during his tenure in the House. But he said former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) had long sought to oust him from the job because he is openly gay.
Trandahl’s remarks last week were brief and came after an audience member asked a question about Foley. The panel discussion addressed the question of how far the gay rights movement has progressed. Other panelists included European Union parliament member Michael Cashman and activist and philanthropist Herb Hamsher.
Kevin Naff can be reached at email@example.com.
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