Fox News' Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank, "who was supposed to be in charge of oversight, running the House Finance Committee, he didn't do his job because he was ideologically blinded. He wanted to give mortgages to everybody." In fact, Frank has advocated for policies that emphasize low-income home rentals as opposed to homeownership.
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During the February 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) "wanted to give mortgages to everybody." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Frank has advocated for policies that emphasize low-income home rentals as opposed to homeownership. Indeed, in a 2005 speech on the House floor, Frank stated: "I always want to make it clear to people that while homeownership is very important, it should not be considered all of our goal in the housing area. A large number of people, for economic reasons and other reasons, will be renters." Further, in a profile of Frank for the January 12 edition of The New Yorker, staff writer Jeffrey Toobin wrote: "According to Frank, at the root of the real-estate crisis was a misguided notion that homeownership should be available to all people -- what President Bush has called 'the ownership society.' " Toobin quoted Frank saying in a speech that homeownership "is not suitable for everybody."
O'Reilly stated during the show, "When you have a guy like Barney Frank, who was supposed to be in charge of oversight, running the House Finance Committee, he didn't do his job because he was ideologically blinded. He wanted to give mortgages to everybody. So he's in charge of oversight. He didn't provide it."
In fact, during a July 25, 2006, House floor debate on the Federal Housing Administration's Manufactured Housing Loan Modernization Act of 2006, Frank stated:
FRANK: Mr. Speaker, we have a national goal of increasing homeownership. Homeownership is very important. I always want to make it clear to people that while homeownership is very important, it should not be considered all of our goal in the housing area. A large number of people, for economic reasons and other reasons, will be renters. It is a good thing if we can help people become homeowners, but we should not neglect the legitimate interests of renters.
Additionally, in a June 27, 2005, House floor statement, Frank said:
FRANK: Homeownership is an important part of our policy, but it is not the entire housing policy of the Federal Government; nor is it the entire housing need of the Nation. Some people will never own. There will be people who choose not to own; there will be people who for their economic circumstances will not be able to own. And there is no conflict between promoting homeownership and recognizing that decent, affordable rental housing will also be very important indefinitely for tens and tens of millions of Americans.
Further, in his profile of Frank, Toobin wrote:
According to Frank, at the root of the real-estate crisis was a misguided notion that homeownership should be available to all people -- what President Bush has called "the ownership society." "The 'I told you so' here is that homeownership is a nice thing but it is not suitable for everybody," Frank said at Boston College. "There are people in this society who don't have enough money to be homeowners, and there are people whose lives are not sufficiently integrated for them to take on the responsibility to be a homeowner. And we did too much pushing of people into inappropriate mortgages and into homeownership." He said that many people would always be renters, and that there was nothing wrong with this. "We need to get back in the business of building rental housing and preserving the housing we have," he said.
Additionally, while O'Reilly asserted that Frank "didn't provide" oversight from his position on the House Finance Committee, as Media Matters has documented, Frank has supported efforts to strengthen oversight of Fannie and Freddie, including:
- In 2005, Frank, then the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, worked with then-committee chairman Michael Oxley (R-OH) on the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005, which would have established the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to replace the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) as overseer of the activities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. After voting for the bill in committee, Frank voted against final passage of the bill on the House floor, stating that he was doing so because an amendment to the bill on the House floor imposed restrictions on the kinds of nonprofit organizations that could receive funding under the bill.
- In early 2007, as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank sponsored H.R. 1427, a bill to create the FHFA, granting that agency "general supervisory and regulatory authority over" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and directing it to reform the companies' business practices and regulate their exposure to credit and market risk. Among other things, Frank's legislation, titled the "Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2007," directed the FHFA director to "ensure" that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "operate in a safe and sound manner, including maintenance of adequate capital and internal controls" and to establish standards for "management of credit and counterparty risk" and "management of market risk." The FHFA was eventually created after Congress incorporated provisions that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said were "similar" to those of H.R. 1427 into the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which the president signed into law on July 30, 2008.
Indeed, in his profile, Toobin wrote:
In 2005, while the Democrats were still in the minority, Frank contributed to a bipartisan effort to put his objectives -- tighter regulation of Fannie and Freddie and new funds for rental housing -- into law. At the time, Fannie and Freddie were regulated by a small agency within the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the bill proposed to create an independent agency to monitor their operations. Frank and Michael Oxley, who was then chairman of the Financial Services Committee, achieved broad bipartisan support for the bill in the committee, and it passed the House. But the Senate never voted on the measure, in part because President Bush was likely to veto it. "If it had passed, that would have been one of the ways we could have reined in the bowling ball going downhill called housing," Oxley told me. "Barney, to some extent, is misunderstood -- with this image of him as a fierce partisan. He is an institutionalist. He believes in the House and in the process. He eschews the grandstanding style that so many members use and prefers to work behind the scenes and get something done."
As Media Matters has documented, media conservatives have repeatedly made false accusations to argue that proponents of the expansion of affordable housing -- including Frank -- are responsible for the financial crisis.
From the February 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: I don't trust any of these guys, Doctor. I don't trust Barney Frank; I don't trust the Wall Street pinheads; I don't trust -- I don't think anybody, including President Obama, knows what this giant spending package is going to do, and I think most of the folks in America agree with me. No confidence in any of these people. It's out of control. So, do you have any advice for people? What should we do to protect our financial well-being?
MARC LAMONT HILL (Fox News political contributor): Right. And, see, Bill, once again, you're almost right on this. I think you're right to the extent that people don't trust the government and people don't trust Wall Street, and I agree that they shouldn't trust Wall Street at this moment. But there's a difference between saying that people can't trust the government and saying that people shouldn't trust the government.
You know, the argument that you're making is often taken up by conservatives as an excuse to deregulate and have hands-off government, when in fact what we need to do is have more regulation and more oversight so that we can create a government that we do trust.
O'REILLY: But here's the problem --
HILL: And that's why I think Barney Frank is right on the money.
O'REILLY: Here's the problem with that. When you have a guy like Barney Frank, who was supposed to be in charge of oversight, running the House Finance Committee, he didn't do his job because he was ideologically blinded. He wanted to give mortgages to everybody.
O'REILLY: So he's in charge of oversight.
HILL: That's not true, Bill.
O'REILLY: He didn't provide it.
HILL: That's not true.
O'REILLY: What isn't true?
HILL: That's actually not true.
LARRY ELDER (syndicated radio host): Well -- well, Bill, and --
HILL: A lot of -- a lot of --
O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait.
ELDER: And Bill, it wasn't -- it wasn't just --
O'REILLY: Go ahead.
ELDER: But, Bill, it wasn't just Barney Frank. The FCC fell down, the FDIC fell down --
HILL: No --
ELDER: -- the head of the Fed in New York, who's Timothy Geithner -- he's one of the cops -- he fell down. The bottom line is, when you have government involved in this, you're going to have all sorts of mismanagement, oversight shenanigans --
O'REILLY: I -- listen. I don't have any kind of --
ELDER: -- but the bottom line question is what should we --
O'REILLY: If they were -- if they were Elliot Ness --
HILL: No, no, no, no, no.
O'REILLY: If they were Elliot Ness --
HILL: Bill and Larry --
O'REILLY: -- I would say OK. Look, I got 20 seconds, Doctor, you take the last word.
HILL: Look, here's the -- you guys are both dead wrong on this. It's easy to blame, like, the Community Reinvestment Act and other things, as if poor -- giving loans to poor people were -- was the problem. The problem here wasn't that; most of those loans performed quite well. The problem here was a lack of oversight, it was corporate greed, and it was irresponsibility by the rich and the government.
O'REILLY: All right, gentlemen, always a pleasure. Directly ahead, Kellogg fires Michael Phelps for smoking dope and the pot people are outraged. They want to boycott the cereal.