I am writing in reply to your article "Friends as Enemies,"
published in the October 4 edition of Scene
. I have lived in Cleveland all of my adult life, practiced in the human services field, and been active in the gay community. From all of these perspectives, I find your article offensive and disappointing.
I am offended by your unfounded attack on the person of Earl Pike and the work of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. Your combination of non-contextual reporting and non-truths does nothing but attempt to damage the strong and long-standing reputation of Earl and the Taskforce. Earl Pike is, in fact, one of the strongest and most vocal advocates for the gay community that this city has ever seen. Your assertions of Earl attempting to "spur homophobia" could not be farther from the truth. I challenge you to ask anyone who knows Earl personally and professionally about Earl's support and love of the Cleveland community, particularly the gay community.
I am also disappointed by your completely biased representation of the events surrounding the opening of the new bathhouse. Mr. Fleck is entitled to open a business. He also is responsible to do so in a way that demonstrates his efforts to support and uphold standards of public health and safety.
You reported Mr. Fleck "wasn't prepared to take on additional obligations." The obligation to provide education and opportunities for safer sex is not "additional" in the eyes of this public — it should have been a part of Mr. Fleck's initial plan. Why does Mr. Fleck's $7 million budget not include testing and prevention, as your article points out? Public health is not Mr. Fleck's option as the operator of a bathhouse -- it is his responsibility. We as a community need to hold him accountable for that.
[Editor's note: Actually, the article stresses that Fleck planned all along to make safe sex an imperative at his bathhouse, just as he has at others he operates around the country. The only point in dispute was that he didn't want to buy his supplies from Pike.]
My disappointment extends to your biased representation of Fleck's employee, Walter Fisher, who broke the law by not registering as a sexual offender during his residency in our city. Again, it is not Mr. Fleck's or Mr. Fisher's right to break the law. Your reporting grossly downplays the grave nature of Mr. Fisher's offense. To get all the facts you simply need to check the public record of Mr. Fisher's offense to see that it was not one "relationship with a boy just a few months below the age of consent," as you reported. Rather, he was convicted of oral copulation with three male minors. We as a community have a right to know all the facts and we need to hold Mr. Fleck and his employee accountable to the safety standards put in place in our community which include registering sexual offenders.
It is with anger and protest that I write in response to your unfounded and not factual reporting. Quite contrary to what you reported, as a gay man I am grateful to Earl Pike and to the AIDS Taskforce for their courage and undying compassion. Mr. Resnick, I believe your article aims to make more enemies than friends.