A scandal involving a Republican congressman who sent inappropriate messages to teenage boys continues to grow.

Mark Foley resigned from the US Congress after it was reported that he sent sexually themed e-mails and instant messages to underage male pages. Foley chaired the House caucus on missing and exploited children. After resigning, Foley publicly came out of the closet announcing that he is gay. His statement follows years of rumours about his sexuality, which he had previously refused to discuss.

Congress’ first openly gay man, Democrat Barney Frank told the Associated Press news agency that he felt pity for Foley, considering his closeted status. “It’s a terrible place to be, and it’s got to be worse if you’re a Republican,” he said.

Foley has denied that the messages were inappropriate, but expressed regret at his actions, saying in a letter of resignation that, “I am deeply sorry and I apologise for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent.”

President George Bush has commented on the issue saying that,” I was disgusted by the revelation, and disappointed that he would violate the trust of the citizens who placed him in office.”

Now Republican leaders have come under fire after allegations that they were aware of the inappropriate behaviour and failed to act on the information. A closed meeting was held by the House Ethics Committee on Thursday to determine how much was known about Foley’s messages.

Kirk Fordham, A senior congressional aide who has also resigned, claims that he warned Republican leaders prior to 2005 about Foley’s behaviour, and that they failed to act.

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