Eric Massa never had it so good.
The scandal that broke in early March regarding alleged sexual misconduct by freshman Representative Eric Massa (D-NY-29) was more than just another example of a Congressman run amuck. It underscored the wildly different treatment by major news outlets of Congressional sex scandals when it comes to Republicans and Democrats, particularly if there are large political gains at stake.
A review of relatively similar Congressional sex scandals over the years indicates that treatment by major newspapers followed a very distinct pattern. The modus operandi appeared to be report the scandal if it involves a Democrat or provide over-the-top, wall-to-wall to coverage if the alleged perpetrator is a Republican — especially if there are major election gains to be made. Consider the following examples.
In July 1983, a House Ethics Committee investigation reported that Congressman Gerry Studds, a Massachusetts Democrat, had engaged in a homosexual relationship with an underage male page that began when the boy was only 16 years old. The page testified to Congressional investigators the affair began when Studds invited the youngster to the Congressman’s apartment, got him drunk by serving him alcohol, and then had sex with the teen.
In the months that followed, Studds periodically had sex with the youth in the Massachusetts politician’s apartment. He even took the teen abroad during a two and one-half week trip to Europe. In a written statement given to Congressional investigators, Studds acknowledged “that he had made sexual advances to two other male pages” in addition to having admitted carrying on a homosexual affair.
When the committee completed its investigation it recommended a reprimand for Studds. The full House ignored the committee’s recommendation and instead chose to levy the more harsh punishment of a public censure.
It was learned in 1989 that Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank hired a homosexual prostitute he had paid for sex to be his live-in “boy toy” lover at an annual salary of $20,000. The prostitute, Steven Gobie, had a long criminal record having been convicted of several felonies, including sex offenses and cocaine possession. Frank later admitted he knew that Gobie continued his work as a prostitute when he hired him. After moving in with Frank, Gobie began using the Congressman’s Capitol Hill apartment as his base of operations to run a homosexual prostitution ring.
Frank went out of his way to “fix” several traffic tickets for Gobie when the pimp was cited while using Frank’s car bearing his Congressional license plates. Frank’s excuse was that Gobie was performing official duties on behalf of the Congressman.
The story broke about Illinois Democratic Congressman Mel Reynolds having had sex with a 16-year old campaign volunteer in August 1994. Reynolds was eventually convicted in both federal and state courts for numerous felonies and was sentenced first to state prison, and then to federal prison.
Reynolds was given executive clemency by Bill Clinton when he left the presidency. Upon his release, Reynolds was hired by Jesse Jackson to work for Operation PUSH.
The story broke in late September 2006 that Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida had been sending lurid text messages to Congressional pages. Foley resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives the very next day.
Over the next several weeks numerous stories emerged alleging Foley had sent inappropriate instant messages to several Congressional pages, many of whom reportedly were uncomfortable with the content of the IMs. One news organization claimed a pair of unnamed men, who were formerly pages, had engaged in sexual activity with Foley after they had reached legal age and long after they left the page program.
Then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi offered a resolution to create special House subcommittee to investigate Foley. Instead, the House unanimously voted to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee.
After prodding by Pelosi, the House Ethics Committee expanded its investigation to include several Republican leaders to ascertain what they might have known of the scandal before it was reported by the press.
Federal and Florida state law enforcement agencies opened criminal investigations into the Foley affair. In two years time, the U.S. House, FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement had all closed their investigations after determining no House rules or federal or state laws were broken.
On June 11, 2007, a police officer occupying a men’s room stall at the Minneapolis Airport alleged the man in the stall to his left displayed signs indicative of someone seeking to engage in sexual activity.
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