It was one of the biggest sex scandals in 21st century American politics. A US Congressman was accused of multiple incidents of inappropriate behaviour towards male teenagers employed as House pages.

In his first public comments since he resigned from Congress under a cloud in September 2006, Mark Foley has given his first interview, in which he admits he should not have sent explicit instant messages to the teenagers and claims he was sexually abused as a 12 year old.

“There was never anywhere in those conversations where someone said, ‘Stop,’ or ‘I’m not enjoying this,’ or ‘This is inappropriate’ … but again, I’m the adult here, I’m the Congressman,” Mr Foley told Associated Press.

“The fact is I allowed it to happen. That’s where my responsibility lies.”

He said it was incorrect to term him a paedophile as his focus was on teenage boys.

“At the end of the day, they were instant messages that were extraordinarily inappropriate,” he said.

A Republican, Mr Foley represented the Florida’s sixteenth district for eleven years and was chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children.

He resigned in September 2006 after ABC News reported he sent messages to current and former underage male pages with references to sexual acts and genitalia.

Foley sent some ‘overly-friendly’ e-mails in August 2005 to a former page who was 16 years old at the time.

The exchanges were later published on the internet. He was also accused of sending sexually explicit instant messages to other House pages.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement closed a criminal investigation into Foley without filing charges in September.

Investigators had earlier complained they were being prevented from fully investigating when Congress refused to release the computers used by Foley.

Foley allegedly made friends with a wide circle of teenage House of Representatives pages, then singled out “hot” boys to write to.

In October 2006 the Washington Post claimed to have identified four former pages who said they were sexually solicited by Mr Foley.

One former page, who was not identified, told Reuters that Mr Foley sent him e-mails when he was 16 asking about “my roommates, if I ever saw them naked.”

Later, the former page said the politician hinted about a job opportunity “because I was a hot boy.”

The Foley scandal was a major embarrassment for the Republicans in the run-up to the November 2006 elections, in which the party lost control of both the House and the Senate to the Democrats for the first time since 1994. They suffered further losses in both chambers on Election Day last week.

After his resignation from Congress, Foley came out of the closet and went into rehab to treat an alcohol problem.

He also claimed that as a teenager he was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest.

A 72-year-old priest admitted to a series of sexual encounters with the teenage Mark Foley, but denied the relationship was abusive.

“I loved my early life, and then along comes a priest … who forces me into a sexual relationship at the age of 12,” Mr Foley told AP.

“And right shortly thereafter, I fail eighth grade, I start drugs, I start drinking, I start smoking,” he said. “My entire life … implodes.”

As for his future plans, the former Congressman, who is an outcast in his own party, said he is “just going to take it a day at a time.”