Citing his own brush with sexual scandal, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Tuesday that he's in no position to judge the lurid actions of colleague Anthony Weiner.
"Given these circumstances, where I was myself engaged in activity I shouldn't have been … I just don't think it's appropriate for me to set myself up as the judge of others," Frank told reporters in the Capitol Tuesday.
Frank said he wouldn't dodge the issue if it comes up for a vote in the House, "but to step up and appoint myself a judge of other people based on my own past, I just don't think it's appropriate," he said.
Weiner, a seven-term New York Democrat, acknowledged last week that he'd recently sent pictures of his underwear-clad groin to a Seattle college student less than half his age. Since then, more and more similar photos and lewd messages have surfaced on the Internet, evidently leaked by the various women with whom Weiner was communicating over social media.
Behind Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a number of Democratic leaders have called on Weiner to step down to prevent the scandal from becoming an enduring distraction from other issues such as Medicare, gas prices and the economy.
During a meeting of the Democratic Caucus on Tuesday – a meeting dominated by economic issues, according to a number of members – Pelosi explained to her troops the reasons she called on Weiner to resign.
"I wanted to be sure that they knew why I came to the conclusion that – with the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the need for help – that congressman Weiner should resign from the Congress," Pelosi said as she left the meeting.
Weiner has so far refused to step down, instead taking a two-week leave of absence from his congressional duties in hopes that the criticisms will blow over.
In the mid-1980s, Frank become entangled in a lurid scandal of his own when he solicited sex from a male prostitute, Stephen Gobie, and later hired him as a live-in aide and driver. It later came to light that Gobie was offering prostitution services out of Frank's Capitol Hill apartment – a story Gobie took to the Washington Times.
Although the Ethics Committee cleared Frank of any illegal activity, it did find that Frank had used the powers of his office to curry favors for Gobie. In 1990, the House voted overwhelmingly to reprimand Frank – a lesser punishment than the censure and expulsion some Republicans were advocating at the time.
Frank on Tuesday did make a distinction between his situation and that now facing Weiner, noting that he had requested the Ethics investigation himself.
"In my own case, I welcomed – and asked for – a full Ethics investigation, because I did think that I had been accused of some things that I did that I shouldn't have done, and some things that I didn't do that no one should have done," Frank said.
Still, the Massachusetts liberal was quick to reiterate that his past leaves him little authority to weigh in on the Weiner affair.
"It's time to show a bit of humility and not set myself up as the judge of others," Frank said.