Harvard Square bystanders discuss Barney Frank, 1990

by Jason Ong

Update: As of October 21, 2013 there is video related to this post on our website.

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank has announced that he will not be running for reelection this year, ending over 30 years of service in the House of Representatives.

However, his image was tarnished in 1990, during the Steve Gobie scandal. Gobie was a male prostitute who lived in the congressman's apartment as a personal aide and housekeeper. Frank paid Gobie's legal bills and used some influence to dismiss Gobie's parking tickets.

Frank and Gobie met when Frank hired Gobie as a prostitute, for escort services. That in itself would be seen in a negative light by some people. But the real scandal began when Gobie was found to be running an actual prostitution service from Frank's apartment with, Gobie claimed, Frank’s full knowledge. Frank terminated Gobie’s employment, but Gobie told his story to the press.

[caption id="attachment_597" align="alignright" width="300"]Woman Interviewed at
Harvard Sqaure "I'm not that concerned with his personal life… I'd rather target more important issues…I think this is a diversion." Courtesy CCTV[/caption]

Frank denied that he’d been aware of Gobie’s service, and he agreed to let the House Ethics Committee conduct a full investigation. But he said that he would not consider resigning from Congress until after the Committee issued its report.

During this time, CCTV producers talked to some people around Harvard Square and asked them if they thought the congressman should resign. I found this 20-year old footage in the CCTV archives.

Most people said that he should not. They said that there were more important problems to deal with, that he was an effective legislator, and that his personal life was not an issue. A few people said that he should, to preserve the integrity of the office, and that what he did was wrong and illegal.

[caption id="attachment598" align="alignleft" width="300"]<a href="http://bostonlocaltv.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/gettingaway.png">Man Interviewed at
Harvard Square "…If he were heterosexual, and were living with a prostitute, people would come down on him a lot harder than they have…I don't think that's fair." Courtesy CCTV[/caption]

Some people thought Frank was getting special treatment because of his homosexuality: that if he were living with a female prostitute, he would have gotten more pressure to resign. Conversely, one person felt that because he was homosexual, he was getting harsher treatment, perhaps from people who disapproved of homosexuality to begin with.

The House Committee issued a formal reprimand, and Frank did not resign. He went on to win all of his subsequent reelection bids, most of them with a comfortable majority of the vote, and several of them with no opposition. It seems that the people of his district generally felt the same way as the bystanders in Harvard Square.