Media falsely claim Frank did not answer question asking if he bore any responsibility for financial crisis

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Several media figures falsely claimed Barney Frank did not answer a student's question asking how much responsibility he bore for the financial crisis. In fact, Frank did provide a substantive response to the question.

During the April 8 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough falsely claimed, repeatedly, that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) would not give an answer to a student's question: "[H]ow much, if any, responsibility do you think you have" for the financial crisis? Similarly, on the April 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy falsely claimed Frank "never answered" the student's question, and on the April 7 edition of his Fox News television program, Sean Hannity asserted that Frank "had a little trouble answering a very simple question last night." Contrary to their claims, Frank did provide a substantive response, which none of them mentioned or aired.

Scarborough, Doocy, and Hannity all played clips of the exchange between Frank and a student at an event at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. But none of them noted that Frank said, "The answer is, yes, I do take responsibility for something," or that he later added that after filing "a bill in 2006 when I was still in the minority to say that hedge funds should be registered," in 2007, he "was approached by people who said, 'No. No. You can't do too much regulation,' and I backed off. I wish I hadn't." Frank also noted that he did, in fact, work on legislation to deal with mortgage lending, stating that in 2007 his committee passed restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and on subprime lending.

From Frank's comments:

FRANK: You're entitled to be critical, but I'm entitled to answer. The answer is, yes, I do take responsibility for something. In 2006 the Republican appointed chairman of the SEC, who was forced out by George Bush because he was too much of a regulator, Bill Donaldson, tried to get control of -- tried to make hedge funds register. The courts overturned him. They were right because he was bending the statute. He was right on public policy, wrong on the law.

I immediately filed a bill in 2006 when I was still in the minority to say hedge funds should be registered. In 2007 I was approached by people who said, "No. No. You can't do too much regulation," and I backed off. I wish I hadn't.

But as far as your question, that the subprime thing happened on my watch, I think it's fair to ask, what is it you think I should have done? In -- you said, well, I was critical of a stimulus bill a year later, but that didn't cause the subprime crisis. My criticism of the stimulus bill? I mean, people said, "Oh my God, he's being critical. Let's default." I mean, I don't understand.

The point -- excuse me. Here is what happened on my watch. I became chairman on January -- and this is the right-wing attack on liberals to try and stop regulation that you are repeating -- on January 31 I became the chairman; on March 28 the committee passed a very tough Fannie/Freddie bill, which the Bush administration liked; later that year, in November, we passed a bill to restrict subprime lending. Because we did the subprime lending restriction, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, did what Alan Greenspan refused to do, and said, "OK, I'll do that."

So, I do want to ask you, when you suggest that I should apologize for something or take responsibility, what is it you think I should have done that I didn't do?

From the April 8 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

WILLIE GEIST (co-host): Barney Frank, chairman of the --

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Oh, yes --

SCARBOROUGH: Good friend -- good friend --

GEIST: -- House Financial Services Committee --

SCARBOROUGH: -- of Mike's.

GEIST: --was at the Kennedy School of Government this week --

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, good. That's a great place to go speak.

GEIST: -- speaking before some students -

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

GEIST: -- including some law students, and he was asked point blank by one of the law students there, "Do you accept responsibility, given the position you held on the Financial Services Committee, for what has happened in this country?"

SCARBOROUGH: Oh. I'm sure he does. He's a stand-up guy.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

GEIST: Quite an exchange here, watch this.

[begin video clip]

FRANK: What is it you think I should have done beginning in January 31 of 2007 -- which is when I became chairman -- that I didn't do?

JOEL POLLAK (Harvard Law School student): Well, first of all, you pushed a stimulus bill through Congress that included several provisions that you later attacked as profoundly wasteful and so on --

FRANK: Who did? Not me.

POLLAK: -- like AIG bonuses.

FRANK: But you're talking about the subprime crisis, then you're talking about a bill in 2008 or --

POLLAK: And in 2008, in October, you accused critics of the stimulus plan of being racist and so on.

FRANK: No. Excuse me --

POLLAK: I'm still waiting -- I'm still waiting for a very simple answer to a question.

FRANK: And I'm waiting for -- I'm waiting for you to tell me what you think I should have done. I didn't say you were racist.

POLLAK: No. You're a public representative. I'm a student. I'm asking you how --

FRANK: Oh, so which allows you to say things that you don't back up.

POLLAK: I'm asking --

[...]

FRANK: You've made an accusation that is wholly inaccurate. I --

POLLAK: I didn't accuse you of anything. I'm asking how much responsibility, if any --

FRANK: Sure.

POLLAK: You can say none. That's fine.

FRANK: You -- I think you're being disingenuous, to be honest, when you say you haven't made an accusation. You said it happened on my watch. Rarely -- I've never heard anybody say, "Good for you, it happened on your watch." That's accusatory. You're entitled.

[...]

FRANK: This is an example of the right-wing's effort, frankly, to try and change the subject from getting regulation.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Stop labeling him -- just answer the question.

FRANK: No, I am labeling -- I think labels are important. And I think there's a systematic right-wing attack to try and divert the blame for their deregulation.

[end video clip]

SCARBOROUGH: God --

BRZEZINSKI: Wow.

SCARBOROUGH: -- that is sad.

GEIST: No -- no answer to the question. Now you do -- you do have to say a kid -- a conservative kid standing up at a Harvard University and facing off with Barney Frank -- that's pretty courageous in its own right, but again, he didn't answer the question.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, and I -- that's the thing that strikes me. You know, I went to two state schools, and even when I stood up in those type of groups, if you would even express a moderate to conservative viewpoint, you would be booed down and hissed down, because, of course, most professors are far left -- other than Harold Ford. And so students try to follow along and try to -- so this young guy stands up, and he brings up the fact -- and it is a -- and, of course, Barney didn't want to answer it, Mike.

But Barney had said when people challenged him on his blind support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back in 2002, 2003, and earlier -- I think, last year -- that Republicans opposed Fannie Mae because they hated black people.

MIKE BARNICLE (MSNBC contributor): Yeah, well, that clip doesn't do Barney any favors -

BRZEZINSKI: No.

BARNICLE: -- and Barney didn't do himself any favors there by labeling the young man a right-winger when he was just asking a question.

SCARBOROUGH: He was trying to get facts out. And Barney -- and isn't that a great question to ask a public servant? Because I've -- I admit when I make mistakes. I admit, I was part of the subprime crisis -- everybody was part of it. What kind of example does that set when a student asks a man who was one of Fannie and Freddie's biggest advocates, do you bear any responsibility, and he won't answer that question?

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: That is sad. I mean --

GEIST: It's a simple question, John. Isn't it?

SCARBOROUGH: -- the student -- the student is right.

JOHN RIDLEY (MSNBC contributor): Yes or no, answer the question. Don't wait for the translation. Yeah, it's like a scene out of Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country --

GEIST: You're such a nerd.

RIDLEY: -- if I remember my references correctly. You know, look, its one of those things [inaudible] humor goes a long way, and I think in those situations, not that you shouldn't have a good answer, and he's clearly a very intelligent man -- first time I met you, Joe, we were on a show with the Representative. But one of those things when you start to get belligerent with an individual who may be slightly informed but is coming from an underdog situation, that's where it gets to be a little difficult.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, and that's the problem. If you're a conservative student at Harvard in that type of crowd, you're standing alone and you have an elected representative pounding you, not answering a very basic question, which is very simple. Yes, I messed up. We all messed up. That's the answer.

BRZEZINSKI: We're all to blame here.

SCARBOROUGH: We're all to blame. And he can't do that.

RIDLEY: I think taking just a little bit of ownership -- and I think you're right, Joe -- saying, look, it's not just me, it's everybody. There are some things I think I did correctly, let me correct the record on this or that.

BRZEZINSKI: Sure. It's a conversation.

RIDLEY: But it's tough for a lot of people -- and I'm not putting this on him -- it's tough for a lot of people, when you're on the spot, to go, "Oh, yeah, you know, I thought this was the correct answer," as opposed to getting defensive about it.

From the April 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: It's definitely a place that Barney Frank thought that he would have a very comfortable audience at, I think. So, he goes there to give a speech at the Kennedy School of Government. There he is. The only thing is there was this pesky student.

DOOCY: A conservative.

KILMEADE: They call him a conservative.

DOOCY: A conservative.

CARLSON: A conservative pesky student, who had some questions for Barney Frank, some questions he didn't really want to answer. Let's listen.

[begin video clip]

POLLAK: I'm still waiting for a very simple answer to a question.

FRANK: And I'm waiting for -- I'm waiting for you to tell me what you think I should have done. I didn't say you were racist.

POLLAK: No. You're a public representative. I'm a student. I'm asking you how --

FRANK: Oh, so which allows you to say things that you don't back up.

POLLAK: I'm asking -- it does -- it does allow me to ask you a question. I'm waiting for you to explain --

FRANK: OK. I'll give you the answer.

POLLAK: -- how much, if any, responsibility do you think you have?

FRANK: Well, I will take this. First of all, you are a student. Students are entitled to full constitutional freedom of speech under the First Amendment. You've made an accusation that is wholly inaccurate. I --

POLLAK: I didn't accuse you of anything. I'm asking how much responsibility if any --

FRANK: Sure.

POLLAK: You can say none. That's fine.

[end video clip]

KILMEADE: It is a great question.

DOOCY: Yeah.

KILMEADE: He didn't accuse him of anything. He said, can a student ask a congressman, who works for him --

DOOCY: Sure.

KILMEADE: -- a question? And the question was: What responsibility do you think you have in this crisis?

DOOCY: And a lot -- if you believe the stories talking about the congressional responsibility leading to the deregulation of all these crazy derivatives and stuff like that.

KILMEADE: Fannie and Freddie, and there is no problem --

DOOCY: Sure. And the real estate -- yeah. Absolutely. It's a great question. That kid was great to stand up and continue to pester him on it and needle him.

KILMEADE: Right.

DOOCY: And from what we've heard, he never answered it. What's up with that?

From the April 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: And finally tonight, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank, had a little trouble answering a very simple question last night. Now, Congressman Frank gave a speech at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and during the question-and-answer session, he was asked this brain teaser by a student in the audience about his role in the economic crisis.

POLLAK [video clip]: What I would like to know is if you acknowledge any responsibility at all for what's happened.

HANNITY: Now Congressman Frank didn't take too kindly to that question. As you know, he's not big on the whole taking responsibility thing, and after rambling on and on and on about the sins of the Bush administration, the student went at him again.

Let's take a look.

[begin video clip]

POLLAK: I'm still waiting for a very simple answer to a question.

FRANK: And I'm waiting for -- I'm waiting for you to tell me what you think I should have done. I didn't say you were racist.

POLLAK: No. You're a public representative. I'm a student. I'm asking you how --

FRANK: Oh, so which allows you to say things that you don't back up.

[...]

FRANK: Well, I will take this. First of all, you are a student. Students are entitled to full constitutional freedom of speech under the First Amendment. You've made an accusation that is wholly inaccurate.

[end video clip]

HANNITY: All right, stellar performance, Mr. Chairman, berating a student for asking a simple question. That is definitely the kind of accountability that we're looking for in our elected officials.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity, Steve Doocy
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends, Hannity
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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