Faced with growing criticism of his hiring of a male prostitute as his personal aide, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) asked the House Ethics Committee Monday to investigate the matter and predicted that the inquiry would clear him of any violation of House rules.
Frank, an acknowledged homosexual, said he used poor judgment in hiring Stephen L. Gobie, a prostitute with a criminal record, after he had paid him for sex. But, he said: "I hadn't thought that gross stupidity was a violation of House rules."
Gobie has charged that Frank was aware that he was using his apartment for male and female prostitution and that his employment was a cover for their sexual relationship. Frank has denied these assertions.
Frank's comments Monday came in a telephone interview from Newton, Mass., shortly after his Washington office released a three-page letter in which he asked Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, for the investigation. "The Ethics Commitee is the appropriate forum and the Ethics Committee ought to get it resolved . . . . I want this forum," Frank said in the interview.
If Frank hadn't acted, "it was going to be done for him," said Michael Johnson, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.). Other Republican aides said that Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton), a conservative and an outspoken opponent of homosexual behavior, was poised to demand an investigation, citing Frank's earlier request for a committee inquiry into the actions of Rep. Gus Savage (D-Ill.) on a trip to Africa. State Department officials have said that Savage made improper advances to a female Peace Corps volunteer.
"Barney Frank's letter to Chairman Dixon speaks for itself," said House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.). "I am sure the committee will give his request full consideration."
Frank said he acted without consulting the House leadership. One of the House's leading liberals, the Massachusetts congressman said it did not occur to him that "whether I used a prostitute" was a matter that would place him in violation of House rules.
He said he sought the investigation because he was surprised to learn that some people believed Gobie's statements that he ran a prostitution service out of Frank's Capitol Hill apartment with the congressman's knowledge and that his employment by Frank was a cover to hide the sexual nature of their relationship.
"It didn't dawn on me that people would believe him," Frank said. On Friday the congressman acknowledged hiring Gobie as a housekeeper and personal aide with his own funds after paying him for sex and giving him free access to his apartment while he was out of town. Frank said he wanted to lead Gobie to a better life but that he fired him after his Washington landlord twice complained about the aide's behavior while the congressman was out of town.