Anti-gay activist George Alan Rekers contends in an earlier post on Riptide that he did not hire a young gay escort named Lucien as a prostitute. But what the minister -- who hasn't returned calls seeking comment -- likely didn't realize is that Miami New Times reporters were sitting beside Lucien during a candid conversation over speakerphone.
During that talk -- which took place at about 1 a.m. Thursday in a Fort Lauderdale home -- Rekers told Lucien several times not to talk to the press. He also never challenged two statements by Lucien: 1) that the minister had found the 20-year-old escort on an internet site, and 2) that they "did the whole massage thing," referring to Lucien's contention that he gave Rekers nude massages during their two-week trip to Europe.
(A statement on Rekers' website, professorgeorge.com, states that he "did not find out about his travel assistant's internet advertisements offering prostitution activity until after the trip was in progress" and that he was not "involved in sexual behavior with his travel assistant".)
Lucien began the conversation in a state of mild panic, understandably worried by the explosion of publicity that followed New Times' original expose. (Lucien, who asked that his real name not be used, has never told his family he is gay, and prior to the story's publication had declined to mention his line of work to many friends.)
Lucien was offended, too, by what he had learned from friends and press reports of Rekers' three decades of anti-gay activism, a record the Baptist minister tried to downplay.
"I just stay in the background," said Rekers, a co-founder with James Dobson of the Family Research Council, a vehemently anti-gay lobbying group. Of gay people, he said: "I've never picked a fight with them."
Rekers then said he has a "friend in the media" who's advised him to avoid all contact with the press. Rekers told Lucien to do the same.
"Tell them you don't want to do interviews," said Rekers. "Are they calling you on the phone, or calling you at your house?"
"Both!" cried Lucien.
Throughout, Rekers was very solicitous, and Lucien was plainly upset. Lucien explained he'd felt extremely uncomfortable in his dealings with the press.
"We did the whole massage thing," Lucien said, "and I don't know what to think about it."
"Yeah," said Rekers, "just say 'no,' and just say 'I've already [indecipherable] to the press,' and that's it. 'Cuz if you keep answering, it'll keep the story alive."
"This isn't something I can just be silenced about!" Lucien said moments later.
Rekers assured that if the escort just remained silent, the whole story would soon die down. He began muttering darkly about "activists with an axe to grind" and "nothing better to do."
Lucien suggested that perhaps "the media" had a point and that Rekers really had done harm to the gay community. He insisted that Rekers' struggle wasn't his, and said he had considered making a statement to the press.
"Well, don't do that," said Rekers. "It just causes more harm."
"What was going through your mind when you went on that website?" demanded Lucien, referring to rentboy.com, the gay escort site where he had posted his profile.
Rekers paused for several seconds, considering. "Well, I'd be happy to sit down and talk to you more about that." He paused again. "We have to deal with the situation that we have, and make sure it doesn't get worse."
"Sometimes I feel like I should just tell [the press] what happened on the trip."
"No," said Rekers quickly, "Please don't do that. Please don't let them pressure you into it."
"But I'm getting pressured out of the gay community!" Lucien was fairly screaming now. "If I ever wanted to be with someone -- it wouldn't work out! This is my fucking name!"
After some cross-talk, Rekers tried to calm Lucien down: "I've been through things like this in the past --"
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Lucien cut him off: "Well I haven't! I'm 20 years old! If you've been through this, you shouldn't have gone to that website, you shouldn't have hired me -- why did you make so many choices [for me]?"
The conversation was too sad, by then, and we couldn't bear to follow it. The whole thing felt pornographic. One of us took a bathroom break; the other of us left the couch and stood by a window.
-- Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp