Vito Fossella Hangs On, But For How Long?
Beleaguered Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) continues to hang on to his job, if by a thread. But some top Republicans are rallying to his defense, with the message: don't veto Vito.
Encouraged by the support of elder New York politicians, Fossella is resisting calls from colleagues and newspaper editorials to retire. And despite the specter of a domino-like scandal with layer upon layer of problems that threaten to doom the GOP's fall reelection prospects even further, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is not kicking Vito to the curb.
At least not overtly.
"As Rep. Boehner has said, this is a matter between Rep. Fossella, his family and his constituents," says Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
Fellow New York GOP Congressman Peter King tells the Sleuth he thinks Fossella could actually survive the set of crises, which include a drunk-driving charge, a secret mistress and an illegitimate child, and, perhaps even more damning with the voters -- taxpayer-funded congressional trips with his lover.
Fossella is so popular in his district, says King, that "despite all that's swirling around him right now...Vito could win in November. He's extremely popular there. He has to decide what that could do to his family."
(Fossella won reelection in 2006 with a healthy but not overwhelming 57 percent of the vote.)
Describing Fossella as "a good guy," King wouldn't entertain a question of whether he thought Fossella should stay or go. "That's up to him," he told us by phone. "Let's just give him some time to try to get his head together."
Fossella, 43, a devout Catholic and outspoken proponent of "family values," and his wife, Mary Pat, have three children between the ages of 4 and 12. His drunk-driving arrest in Alexandria, Va., on May 1 exposed his long-running extramarital affair with Laura Fay, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who he met when she served as military liaison to the House. Fossella admitted last week he fathered Fay's 3-year-old daughter.
King expressed disgust with -- who else? -- the media for its coverage of Fossella's troubles.
"The media in New York has become Vito's enemy," he said, singling out the New York Daily News and the New York Post. He says while he acknowledges there are serious issues, they "don't warrant eleven days of front-page stories with color pictures of his kids and his wife."
King, the highest-ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, says he rushed to Fossella's defense last week on the House floor after a New York tabloid reporter told him Boehner had given Fossella until Monday to announce his retirement.
King, with Fossella at his side, cornered Boehner in the back of the chamber Thursday and asked if the rumor was true.
"No, no, that's not what I meant at all," King says Boehner assured them. "I just meant we should leave him alone for the weekend."
As part of her job, Fay traveled on overseas congressional delegation trips. Which means his affair amounts to more than just infidelity: the congressman and his lover were romancing each other during the time they took taxpayer-funded trips to Europe and elsewhere.
Former GOP congressman Guy Molinari, a mentor to Fossella who held the Staten Island seat before Fossella, seems to be encouraging his protÃ©gÃ© to stay and fight. "He's not just inclined to run. He plans on running," Molinari told the New York Post.
And why not? If Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) can skate scott-free away from his admission of infidelity with calls girls employed by now deceased D.C. Madam Deborah Jean Palfrey, why couldn't Fossella ride out his public humiliation?
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