BY STEVE ROTHAUS
An antigay psychologist’s recent trip to Europe with a gay male escort from Miami has captivated readers and viewers around the world. Salacious stories have been published from South Florida to New Zealand, and it has been the butt of jokes by Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.
And on Friday, the young escort at the center of the scandal spoke with CNN correspondent Randi Kaye for Anderson Cooper’s prime-time show.
Jo-vanni Roman — a k a Geo and Lucien — told Kaye that psychologist George A. Rekers, an officer of the conservative National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and a retired University of South Carolina professor, paid him $75 a day plus expenses to travel with him for two weeks in April to London and Madrid.
Included for the money: Roman, 20, would give nude “sexual” massages to Rekers, 61, every day during their trip, the younger man told Kaye.
Gay activists and bloggers have pounced on the story: Rekers, a well-known antigay activist, recently was paid more than $120,000 by Florida to testify in defense of the state’s gay-adoption ban.
Earlier this week, Rekers acknowledged traveling with Roman but denied having sex with him. The professor said he hired Roman to carry his luggage during their trip.
Rekers did not respond Friday to several e-mailed requests for comment.
Rekers said he learned of Roman’s travel services through “acquaintances.” Roman says Rekers hired him after viewing his seminude photos on Rentboy.com, a gay-sex website.
Earlier this week, Roman told The Miami Herald that he and Rekers didn’t have sex.
“In all honesty, I did go on the trip with him,” Roman said Wednesday. “He was setting me up as a companion. In all honesty, he’s a very kind family-values man.”
Early Thursday, however, Roman told Miami New Times reporters about the nude massages. He maintained to the alternative newspaper that “Rekers never asked for full-on sex and expressed no interest in attaining orgasm.”
The lurid story echoes a 2006 scandal that felled antigay evangelist Ted Haggard, who stepped down as president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals after escort Mike Jones said he had given sexual massages to Haggard for three years.
“It comes down to what your definition of sex is,” Jones told The Miami Herald on Friday. “Ted Haggard also said we didn’t have sex and later admitted that `sexual immoralities’ happened.”
Jones said the Rekers scandal attracted worldwide interest for the same reason as Haggard’s.
“It’s the same kind of hypocrisy,” he said. “When you are in a position of influence in people’s lives and you’re a hypocrite about it, that’s when it’s serious. It rises to a different level.”
The story broke Tuesday after someone tipped reporters about Rekers’ holiday with Roman, who said Wednesday that the New Times “ambushed and took pictures” of them on their return to Miami International Airport.
Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a national group that opposes the ex-gay movement, also was interviewed Friday in Miami by CNN. He describes Roman as “a victim.”
“Unfortunately, this incident may define [Roman’s] entire life. Of course, he is an adult and he did make those choices,” Besen told The Herald. “It’s easy to dismiss him as a loser seeking his 15 minutes of attention. But he never sought attention by exploiting the situation.”
GEORGE REKER’S Explanation is one for the ages
Fred Grimm/Miami Herald
If Professor George gets away with this, I’m going straight to Rentgirl. It’s my bad back.
Not that I’m suggesting George Rekers went straight to Rentboy, the explicit website where his fellow traveler advertises a willingness “to do anything you say as long as you ask.”
Professor George, as he styles himself on his website, ProfessorGeorge.com , offers a vaguely plausible (alcohol might help) explanation. He didn’t procure the services of a 20-year-old male prostitute to join him on a 10-day-jaunt through England and Spain for purposes of prostitution. “Following medical advice Professor George Rekers requires an assistant to lift his luggage in his travels because of an ongoing condition following surgery.”
With a line like that, and a note from a doctor, who knows how many relationships I might have salvaged?
To be fair, Professor George has never testified that gays don’t make splendid international traveling companions.
George Rekers was paid handsomely by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum ($60,900) and the state of Arkansas ($60,000), to flog gay men and women as unfit parents. Particularly adoptive parents.
As a bonus, at no extra charge, Rekers testified in Miami-Dade Circuit Court that he also considered American Indians to be in the same risky category.
Best I can tell, Rekers has never disparaged the fitness of gays or Indians to hump his baggage. George Rekers comes with a lot of baggage.
Rekers, 61, of North Miami, a Baptist minister and a retired professor of behavior science, has long provided academic cover for the Christian right’s anti-gay agenda. He’s written books, delivered lectures and provided pithy quotes that intimate a scientific basis for opposition to gay adoption and gay marriage.
This global frequent flier, however, suffers needs that trump homophobia. ProfessorGeorge.com boasts of “over 200 lectures in business seminars, community forums, and university settings in dozens of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, former Soviet Republics, Latin America, and the Middle East.”
Surely, the notion of a weary retired professor schlepping suitcases down so many long, lonely airport corridors explained that photo of Rekers at Miami International Airport with Jo-vanni Roman, his young hired escort. Yet the image has zipped around the Internet as if another Ted Haggard had been nabbed in lurid repose. (The New Times’ interview with Roman, describing salacious nude massages, might have exacerbated Rekers’ Haggardness.)
Rekers’ credibility had already suffered when Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman, tossing Florida’s anti-gay adoption law in 2008, found “Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science.” The judge added that “the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”
Yet Rekers can now bolster his discredited theses with 10 days of personal research and outreach in Europe.
He noted on his website, “Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”
Wow. An explanation for the ages. Can’t wait to roll out my own version. “Baby, you don’t understand. I only hang out with sinners, albeit 20-year-old blonde sinners who’ll `do anything,’ to help them.”
Professor George, you’ve lighted the way for debauching phonies everywhere.