By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
The publication that published scores of stories about sexual charges against Republican Herman Cain whitewashed the documented sex scandal that almost brought down Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, saying that a prostitute Frank hired through a “hot bottom” ad was just his “friend.” A liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, Frank has announced he will not run for another term.
Politico, a Washington, D.C.-based political publication, has been under fire from the conservative Daily Caller for a liberal bias that has undermined its credibility and caused it to rapidly lose readers. The Politico story about Frank depicts the congressman as one of Congress’s “most able legislators.” The author is a former staffer to a Democratic member of Congress.
Frank’s “friend,” also described as a “former lover,” was a prostitute who Frank had taken into the House gymnasium, in violation of House rules. The prostitute, Stephen Gobie said they had sex in the gym.
While Frank’s role in the financial crisis has been noted by some publications and commentators, the sex scandal that could have forced his resignation or expulsion from Congress was mostly ignored. Frank was reprimanded by the House for using his congressional office to do favors for Gobie. He refused to resign his seat in Congress.
Jonathan Allen of Politico gave the sex scandal a brief mention in a long positive story about Frank’s legacy. He reported, “Frank was reprimanded by the House for ethics violations in 1990 after a sex scandal in which a former lover ran a male-prostitution service out of Frank’s home. The ethics violations stemmed from Frank’s efforts to fix parking tickets and intervene with a parole officer on behalf of his friend.”
In fact, this “friend,” Gobie, was a male prostitute whom Frank initially paid $80 for anal sex, a dangerous form of sexual activity linked to the spread of HIV/AIDs.
Evidence showed that Frank found Gobie through a “hot bottom” ad in the Washington Blade, a homosexual paper. The ad for Gobie’s sexual services said, “Exceptionally good-looking, personable, muscular athlete is available. Hot bottom plus large endowment equals a good time.”
Allen, who covers Congress, previously co-authored a story accusing some Republicans of being “obsessed” with banning homosexual marriage. He was formerly a top staffer at Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s political action committee. His wife is Communications Director for Democratic Senator Kay Hagan.
“My wife and I made a small contribution to the reelection campaign of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.),” Allen wrote back in February of 2010, after deciding to go back to Politico, where he had already worked. He added, “Now, as I leave my job at Wasserman Schultz’s political action committee to make the transition back to journalism at Politico, there will be some who wonder whether I am a political operative just masquerading as a reporter.”
Allen’s Politico story on Frank certainly raises that concern. It ran in the print edition under the front-page headline, “Frank Legacy: ‘One of a Kind.’” The online version carried the headline, “Barney Frank’s parting shot: Congress is broken.”
Although Politico tried to suggest Frank knew nothing of what Gobie was doing in Frank’s own apartment, Gobie testified that Frank knew everything. The House Ethics Committee investigation of this scandal took Frank’s word for it. It also accepted Frank’s claim that no sex with Gobie occurred in the House gym, even though Gobie had provided an accurate description of the layout of the gym.
Their “friendship” was initially a matter of exchanging money for sex. Later, Gobie did personal errands for Frank for cash, amounting to several thousand dollars. Gobie used Frank’s personal car and ran up dozens of parking tickets, about half of which Frank got dismissed, claiming “official business” on Gobie’s part. This part of the scandal was confirmed by the House Ethics Committee.
Making the Politico treatment look almost objective by comparison, Robert G. Kaiser of The Washington Post wrote an article praising Frank, saying that his laudatory comments should be understood in the context that they have been friends for decades and that “We have maintained friendly relations ever since, so readers should be on notice that this article may want for objectivity.” The story ran under the headline, “With authenticity and intelligence, Barney Frank made his mark in Congress.”
Kaiser wrote that Frank was “an accomplished legislator, a congressman who made a difference. He was usually the smartest man in the room, and the funniest.”
Abby Goodnough of The New York Times called Frank “one of the nation’s most prominent gay elected officials,” adding that he also “blamed the conservative news media for the bitter divide that had made him reluctant to continue in Washington…” It was The Washington Times, the conservative alternative to The Washington Post, that broke the Frank sex scandal.
Ignoring the prostitution scandal, The New York Times said, “Mr. Frank, one of the first openly gay members of Congress, said that he wanted to spend more time with his partner, Jim Ready, and that he would no longer keep a residence in Washington after retiring.”
That “partner” was charged with marijuana possession, cultivation and use of drug paraphernalia back in 2007. Ready later pleaded guilty to civil possession of marijuana and paid a fine. The other charges were dismissed.
In a claim reminiscent of his statement that he didn’t know Stephen Gobie was running a prostitution ring out of his own apartment, Frank admitted that he was present at Ready’s home when Ready was arrested but didn’t know he was using and growing marijuana at the place. “I was not aware that Jim had these plants, and I was disappointed to learn that he did,” Frank said. He claimed that he wouldn’t recognize a pot plant if he saw one.
One of Frank’s previous “partners,” Herb Moses, was a Senior Executive at Fannie Mae, one of the government enterprises in the housing bubble and the subsequent recipient of billions of federal dollars through bailouts.
Frank was on the House Banking Committee while Moses worked to increase Fannie Mae’s questionable lending practices that led to the bubble. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News was one of the prominent conservative media personalities to challenge Frank on his role in encouraging the irresponsible lending.
Frank reportedly “broke up” with Moses in 1998, after ten years.
For Politico, Frank has emerged unscathed as a statesman after all of these controversies and documented scandals. Republicans, on the other hand, are going to be endlessly pilloried with charges that may or may not be true.
The treatment of Frank is another reason why Politico’s credibility is taking a nose dive.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].