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Democrats Can't Change the Subject Away From Weiner

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Camera crews stake out Rep. Anthony Weiner's office in the Rayburn House Office Building on Monday.

The House unanimously agreed Monday to grant Weiner the two-week leave he requested in order to seek treatment. He was not seen publicly on the Capitol complex Monday. But new images were published on a gossip website depicting a partially nude Weiner taking photos of himself in the mirrors at the House gym.

Rep. Barney Frank, himself the subject of a sex scandal in the 1980s, agreed with Ein that Weiner should have come forward quickly.

“Given my own situation, where I was myself guilty of actions that were inappropriate, I don’t set myself up to judge other people,” said the Massachusetts Democrat, declining to say whether Weiner should resign. “I think this is a case where humility on my part is important.”

Frank added, “The chamber will have to vote on it at some time. I don’t think I should be a commentator on ethical behavior.”

In 1989, Frank asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate his relationship with a male prostitute, Steve Gobie, who had lived and operated out of his Capitol Hill town house.

Frank said Weiner’s situation is more analogous to Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) sexual scandal. Vitter’s phone number was found in the records of a prostitute known as the D.C. Madam. The Massachusetts Democrat said no serious ethics inquiry ever moved against Vitter, who easily won re-election last fall.

Frank said he spoke with Weiner before the New York Democrat held a wide-ranging press conference admitting “inappropriate” behavior with at least six women via Twitter and Facebook. Frank said Weiner told him what his lawyers were advising before the truth came out. “I told him lawyers are great for keeping you out of jail; they are not a good source for keeping public opinion,” Frank said.

In his case, Frank moved early to discuss the sex scandal.

“I had a press conference early on and told people what had happened,” Frank said, noting that he was vindicated by the Ethics Committee. At the time, Frank said he was embarrassed but wanted to tell the truth because there were far worse accusations against him that were later refuted.

“You can’t deny the false accusations without acknowledging the true ones,” Frank said. He acknowledged the situation of his former colleague ex-Rep. Gary Condit (R-Calif.), who did not address allegations in the Chandra Levy murder because he wanted to avoid admitting his affair with the then-intern.

Frank said his decision to come out also helped in his decision to discuss the situation. Gobie came forward alleging Frank was involved in several improprieties two years after Frank decided to publicly discuss his sexual orientation.

“There had already been a change in my life that was going to keep this thing from occurring,” Frank said, noting that it was easier to have relationships after coming out. “While I was closeted, I found it very difficult as a prominent gay man not acknowledging that — to meet people, have these relations.”

In his situation, Frank said the Democratic leadership was “fairly supportive” of him and that the leaders and a significant number of Republicans helped rebuff an effort by then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to increase the reprimand to censure.

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