Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of two acknowledged homosexuals in the House of Representatives, admitted Friday that he had employed a male prostitute as a personal aide, but he said that he fired him after learning that the congressman’s Capitol Hill apartment was being used as a house of prostitution.
Frank said he met the man, whom he identified as Steve Gobie, through an ad in a Washington gay newspaper in 1985 and paid to have sex with him. The Massachusetts congressman, who at the time had not made his public acknowledgement that he was gay, said he later hired Gobie as a chauffeur and housekeeper with the hope of reforming a troubled young man with a history of petty crime and prostitution.
‘I Was Victimized’
“I hired him out of a charitable impulse. I thought I was going to be a liberal who got involved directly with an individual who needed help,” Frank told reporters in Boston on Friday. " . . . I was victimized. I misjudged his character.”
Frank was responding to a front page story Friday in the Washington Times headlined, “Sex Sold Out of Congressman’s House,” that included the young man’s description of his former relationship with Frank.
Frank said he paid Gobie about $20,000 a year in his own funds. According to the newspaper, the congressman wrote letters on Gobie’s behalf to Virginia probation authorities. Gobie was on probation after being convicted in 1982 of four felonies, including cocaine possession and production of obscene items involving juveniles.
In August, 1987, Frank said he fired Gobie and ended their relationship after his landlady alerted him to the prostitution business being run out of his basement apartment several blocks from the Capitol.
House Democratic leaders were quick to come to Frank’s defense.
Foley Offers Backing
“There is no more able, articulate and effective member of the House of Representatives than Barney Frank,” House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said in a statement. “He has provided outstanding service to his constituency and the nation, and I’m absolutely confident he will continue to do so long after this matter has been forgotten.”
Despite Foley’s statement of support, several politicians raised the possibility that the House Ethics Committee may choose to investigate Frank’s conduct as unbecoming of a House member.
Just last month, Frank was one of three House members to ask the Ethics Committee to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Rep. Gus Savage (D-Ill.). A Peace Corps worker has accused Savage of making sexual advances during an official trip to Zaire.
Frank said he intends to run for reelection next year and does not believe the Gobie incident would undermine his campaign. “I don’t believe it shows me as unethical,” he said. “I believe it shows me as gullible.”
Frank, who publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in 1987, has faced only token opposition in recent elections. Since 1980, he has represented a Massachusetts district that extends west from Boston’s Back Bay through the generally liberal, affluent suburbs of Brookline and Newton and then veers south to the blue collar, old textile towns such as Fall River.
In 1983, another Massachusetts Democratic congressman, Gerry E. Studds, admitted having sex with a male page employed by the House. His Cape Cod constituents also have continued to elect him overwhelmingly.
Dorothy Reichard, an aide to Frank in Boston, said the several dozen calls to his office have been overwhelmingly supportive. “I think people feel he’s an excellent congressman who’s done his job, even though he may have used poor judgment in this instance,” Reichard said.