BARNEY FRANK, U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, born; American politician and a retired member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Frank is a Democrat and represented Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district since 1981 until his retirement in 2012. Following the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in the 2006 midterm elections, Frank assumed the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee.
He is a prominent figure in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and has been outspoken on many civil rights issues including Gay Rights. In 1987, he spoke publicly about his homosexuality for the first time. He said in a 1996 interview: “I’m used to being in the minority. I’m a left-handed, Gay Jew. I’ve never felt, automatically, a member of any majority.”
In 1990, the House voted to reprimand Frank when it was revealed that Steve Gobie, a male escort whom Frank had befriended after hiring him through a personal ad, claimed to have conducted an escort service from Frank’s apartment when he was not at home.
Frank had dismissed Gobie earlier that year and reported the incident to the House Ethics Committee after learning of Gobie’s activities. After an investigation, the House Ethics Committee found no evidence that Frank had known of or been involved in the alleged illegal activity. Regarding Gobie’s more scandalous claims the report by the Ethics Committee concluded, “In numerous instances where an assertion made by Mr. Gobie (either publicly or during his Committee deposition) was investigated for accuracy, the assertion was contradicted by third-party sworn testimony or other evidence of Mr. Gobie himself.”
The New York Times reported on July 20, 1990 that the House Ethics Committee recommended “that Representative Barney Frank receive a formal reprimand from the House for his relationship with a male prostitute.” Attempts to expel or censure Frank, led by Republican member (ahem) Larry Craig (how rich is that?!) failed. Rather the House voted 408-18 to reprimand him. This condemnation was not reflected in Frank’s district, where he won re-election in 1990 with 66 percent of the vote, and won by larger margins ever since.
In 1995, then-Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey referred to Frank as “Barney Fag” in a press interview. Armey apologized and said it was “a slip of the tongue”. Frank did not accept the “slip of the tongue” excuse and responded, “I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag.”
In 1998, he founded the National Stonewall Democrats, the national gay, Lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Democratic organization. In 2004 and again in 2006, a survey of Capitol Hill staffers published in Washingtonian magazine gave Frank the title of the “brainiest”, “funniest”, and “most eloquent” member of the House.
Frank is known for his witty, self-deprecating sense of humor. He once famously quipped that he was unable to complete his review of the Starr Report detailing President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky, complaining that it was “too much reading about heterosexual sex.” Frank is also noted for his occasionally caustic remarks about Republicans. In a June 2007 New England Cable News interview, Frank said of Mitt Romney: “The real Romney is clearly an extraordinarily ambitious man with no perceivable political principle whatsoever. He is the most intellectually dishonest human being in the history of politics.” Frank’s blunt stance on outing certain homosexual Republicans has become well-publicized, dubbed “The Frank Rule”—that it is acceptable to out a closeted person, if that person uses their power or notoriety to hurt Gay people.
The issue became especially relevant during the Mark Foley page scandal of 2006, during which Frank clarified his position on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher: “I think there’s a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. And people who want to demonize other people shouldn’t then be able to go home and close the door and do it themselves.”
In November 2011 Frank announced that he would not run for reelection when his current term was up in 2013. In January of 2012 he announced his intention to marry his longtime partner, Jim Ready. He remains a go-to voice for progressive politics and is frequently on cable news programs as an expert voice.
Frank joined the board of directors of the New York-based Signature Bank in June 2015. In 2018, Frank was featured on Sacha Baron Cohen’s spoof comedy series Who Is America?, discussing the Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape and the Pizzagate conspiracy theory with Baron Cohen’s alter ego Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr. Frank eventually walked out of the interview.