By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Within 24 hours, the fateful phrase "carry my luggage" would enter the popular culture as a catch-all euphemism for gay sex acts. Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Dan Savage, Joy Behar, and Bill Maher would all make the minister and his gay escort the butt of their jokes.
Although Roman is identified in the original story as "Lucien," his anonymity lasts for three hours. He is first outed by a writer for a porn website, who declares that any real journalist would have identified Rekers's rent boy. By late afternoon, hundreds of online sleuths have unearthed what seem like hundreds of Roman's pictures from his Facebook and MySpace pages.
Roman's phone won't stop ringing. Friends, friends of friends, former friends, and would-be friends form a processional to his door in Kendall. His boyfriend dumps him.
On Wednesday, May 5, the Rekers scandal appears on the front page of the London Times' website. It also runs in the New York Daily News, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and other mainstream media outlets, including papers in France, Germany, Spain, and New Zealand.
Terrified his conservative Puerto Rican family will find out he's a gay escort, Roman holes up in the Fort Lauderdale home of a friend. "I'm worried he can't take this," Bullock says. "This fucking story absolutely isn't worth it."
But Roman is doing better by 5 p.m. "I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," he tells Thorp over the phone. "I've figured out a way through this."
"What is it?"
"You'll like it," Roman says. "You'll see."
Shortly after midnight the morning of May 6, Roman goes on-record with the two New Times reporters about what MSNBC's Rachel Maddow would call "a very, very specific massage" — one that Rekers demanded from Roman every day during their European trip.
During the three-hour interview, Roman explains he gave Rekers the same massage — which involves a technique the minister calls "the long stroke" — twice before traveling together. Asked why he has chosen to reveal this information, he explains, "I've learned that George really is an anti-gay activist... Also, I trust you. You didn't give out my name."
Around 1 a.m., Roman phones Rekers. The two reporters scramble to find something to write on — they did not expect the young man to call Rekers, especially at this hour. Bullock grabs a piece of paper from under a table; Thorp commandeers a computer and begins typing.
"Nobody predicted this," Rekers says over the phone speaker. "Nobody could know that this would happen... I'm sure if I knew or if you knew that something like this would happen, neither of us would have —"
"Associated with one another?" Roman interjects.
"Yeah... nothing is gonna come out good from talking to these kinds of people," Rekers says, referring to reporters. "Memories fade —"
"This is my fucking family, George!"
"Memories fade. If you're in New York — not everyone looks at the news... Over time, it fades — it impacts you more right at the time that these things happen."
"I'm gonna tell you right now, in all honesty, I never meant any offense to you when all this came down," Roman says. "And the only way, in all honesty, I can come out with anything good out of this is by mentioning what happened."
"Before you make any decisions, can you at least let me come talk to you tomorrow?"
But they don't meet. Rekers will send New Times a questionnaire that a board-member friend from NARTH has helped him compose. In it, Rekers provides vague answers allegedly from Roman acknowledging all the luggage-carrying and Jesus-talking Rekers did on their trip. He will also threaten to retain a "defamation attorney," calling the New Times coverage "slanderous."
Within a week, his name will disappear from the websites that once boasted it proudly. The Family Research Council will claim to barely remember him and all but declare his guilt. "While we are extremely disappointed when any Christian leader engages in activities they 'preach' against, it's not surprising."
NARTH will issue no confident denials of the story, only assurances that it takes the Rekers allegations "very seriously." When New Times sends Rekers a series of interview questions via email, he says he's been asked by the University of South Carolina — the institution with which he associates himself at the end of every correspondence — to forward all questions to its spokeswoman.
"I am not a spokesperson for Dr. Rekers, but work at the University of South Carolina," the spokeswoman tells New Times. "Dr. Rekers retired from here nearly five years ago."