Mark Foley says attending Donald Trump rally 'wasn't a big deal'

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - AUGUST 10: Former Congressman Mark Foley (red shirt middle of frame) sits in the audience as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks back at the crowd during his campaign event at the BB&T Center on August 10, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trump continued to campaign for his run for president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Caption
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - AUGUST 10: Former Congressman Mark Foley (red shirt middle of frame) sits in the audience as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks back at the crowd during his campaign event at the BB&T Center on August 10, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trump continued to campaign for his run for president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Credit: Bryn Lennon

Credit: Bryn Lennon

After resigning from Congress in disgrace in 2006, former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley made a comeback in politics years ago and became a familiar sight at GOP functions, Forum Club lunches and county commission chambers, where the Washington Nationals hired him to lobby for a spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Foley said he didn't think attending Wednesday night's Donald Trump rally in Sunrise, Florida, with a group of Palm Beach County Republicans was anything significant.

"I was surrounded by local GOP leaders. We were in a little group. It wasn't a big deal," Foley said Thursday morning.

But Foley's appearance reintroduced him to the national spotlight, and the glare was harsh.

Seated behind Trump in full TV camera view at the BB&T Center, Foley's attendance was noted by the national media and the Twitterverse, reviving memories of the 2006 scandal in which Foley was forced from office after it was revealed he sent sexually explicit emails to a former male congressional page. Foley's downfall contributed to the GOP losing control of the House to Democrats in the 2006 midterm elections.

Many compared Foley's conspicuous spot at the Trump rally to the similarly prominent seat Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen's father had two nights earlier at a Hillary Clinton rally in Kissimmee, Florida.

"To be compared to Mateen's father in some way is just an amazing stretch," Foley said. "I got a kick out of some of the commentary. But it comes with the territory."

The Clinton campaign said it didn't know Seddique Mateen attended Tuesday's rally. Trump's campaign didn't immediately respond to an inquiry about Foley's appearance.

At Wednesday's rally, Trump scoffed at the Clinton camp's Mateen explanation, turning to Foley and the others seated behind him as he made his point.

"When you get those seats, you sort of know the campaign. So when she says, "We didn’t know," … They knew," Trump said.

Foley said Trump is a "very gracious" friend who "welcomed me back to Mar-a-Lago after I had my fall from grace."

"I was very disappointed in myself, and I was sad to have let my constituents down," Foley said of the 2006 scandal. "I made a mistake and I paid dearly for it, (but) I have every right to attend political events."

Foley said neither Trump nor his campaign knew in advance that he was attending the rally with the group of Florida Republicans.