Mark Foley getting all creepy about teenagers and sex? Been there, seen that.
Congressman Foley's mixed-up notions about truth and adolescent sexuality surfaced in the press as far back as 2003. That summer I wrote a story for Creative Loafing (then the Weekly Planet) about the Lake Como Family Nudist Resort in Land O' Lakes ("Naked Without Shame," July 3, 2003). Just before my story appeared, the New York Times reported on the camp, and Foley cried foul.
I'd hung out with these kids, talked to their parents and seen a thoroughly balanced family life. Foley, however, said the combination of 8- and18-year-olds was "like putting a match to a gas can," and called for an immediate investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Foley, then as now, displayed a slippery grasp of the facts.
"We tried to contact him but he never returned our calls," said Steve Vickers, public relations director of the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) in Kissimmee, the camp's sponsor. "He claimed he'd done research into the camp, but we never spoke with him."
AANR's executive director Erich Schuttauf said the media repeated the congressman's false allegations over and over.
"Foley said there was no parental supervision, that the teen camp was a new phenomenon invading Florida when in fact it was 12 years old, and that the camp was recruiting teens to attend the camp, when in truth those attending had to complete an admission form that stated their experience with nudism to show they were 'of like mind,' and they must have parental approval," said Schuttauf. The "gas can" quote, too, was off base: All of those attending the camp had to be at least 11.
Foley's vision of the camp was, then, entirely formed in his imagination. It's a bit chilling now to read this line from a letter he wrote to Jeb Bush requesting an investigation:
"The next time, these children may not be so fortunate: The trespasser may have more on his mind than just peeping."