WASHINGTON - Ask some Republicans what is behind the scandal that forced a congressman from their party to resign for sending dirty emails to underage boys and they'll give you a list of the usual suspects.
They have fingered Democrats, accused associates of former President Bill Clinton, named liberal billionaire George Soros and questioned the role of the media.
And they've wondered about the motives of the anonymous individuals who gave the emails to reporters and the mysterious self-described "nobody" who first published them on the internet at a website called StopSexPredators.
Speaker Dennis Hastert, the top Republican in the House of Representatives who is struggling to keep his job in the face of fury over the scandal, accepted responsibility today but not before pointing the finger elsewhere.
"The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros," Hastert told the Chicago Tribune.
Operatives associated with Clinton knew about the allegations and may have been behind the disclosure of the emails so close to the November congressional elections, Hastert added, offering no evidence.
"All I know is what I hear and what I see," he said.
The scandal broke last week when ABC News revealed Republican Rep. Mark Foley of Florida had sent lewd emails to underage male congressional assistants. Hastert came under fire for failing to investigate Foley's behaviour aggressively when concerns initially surfaced.
Republican Majority Leader John Boehner noted some of the emails had been given to the St. Petersburg Times newspaper in Florida, which decided not to publish them. He wondered about the public release of the documents so close to the elections.
"The timing of their release is concerning, at a minimum," he said in a letter.
"Did ABC's source delay release of Foley's messages to maximize their political impact?" he asked, calling for the former congressman to be held accountable along with anyone else "who may have suppressed proof of his crimes."
Meanwhile, the mysterious blogger who first posted some of the emails on the StopSexPredators website fended off queries about his identity.
"I am not Karl Rove, Mark Foley, or John Boehner," he wrote at the site, referring to the presidential aide, the disgraced congressman and the House majority leader.
"I am not employed in Democratic politics. I am not 'funded' by George Soros," the blogger said. "I'm nobody that anybody should care about. So, please, go about your day as if I don't exist."
- REUTERSBy David Alexander