Media continue to advance falsehoods about Frank's exchange with Harvard student

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Media figures continued to misrepresent an exchange between Rep. Barney Frank and a Harvard student, falsely claiming that Frank refused to answer the student's question about how much responsibility Frank takes for the current financial crisis.

During the April 8 edition of his Fox News program, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) "will not take any responsibility" for the financial crisis. He made the statement after airing cropped video of Frank's exchange with Harvard University student Joel Pollak, who asked Frank during an event at the Harvard School of Government, "[H]ow much, if any, responsibility do you think you bear" for the financial crisis? Similarly, on the April 9 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough claimed, "[H]ow sad is it that this young man was trying to get a leader to say, 'Yes, I bear some responsibility,' and [Frank] wouldn't answer that question." During the same Morning Joe segment, MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle asserted: "But the idea that Barney, you know, seemed to be so thin-skinned in that brief appearance that we just saw, that clip there, and refused basically to say, 'Yeah, we're all responsible.' " Moreover, after Fox News' Fox & Friends aired a portion of the exchange on April 9, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that "Frank yelled at the kid, rather than answer the question." Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin also claimed that "an honest politician" might have said, "[Y]eah, I do bear some responsibility." But contrary to their claims, Frank did provide a substantive response, which none of them mentioned or aired.

O'Reilly, Scarborough, and Fox & Friends all played edited clips of the exchange between Frank and Pollak, but none of them noted that, during the event, Frank said, "The answer is, yes, I do take responsibility for something." Frank later added that after filing "a bill in 2006, when I was still in the minority, to say 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.

Kilmeade also stated, "I was astounded that they labeled this kid a conservative. How do you even know this Harvard kid's a conservative?" In fact, during a portion of the exchange not included in the clip Fox & Friends aired, Pollak said to Frank, "I happen to think of myself as a conservative."

On April 8, Scarborough and Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy similarly falsely claimed that Frank would not give an answer to Pollak's question, a falsehood also advanced by Fox News host Sean Hannity.

From Frank's comments:

FRANK: Look, you're entitled to be critical, but I am 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 31 -- 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?

POLLAK: Well, after spending the entire speech blaming conservatives -- I happen to think of myself as a conservative, and I rent, and I think of myself as someone who cares about poor people -- I'm just interested in whether you think you have any responsibility for this.

FRANK: Well, I've answered the question. Sir, I think you're not being fully honest with us. You clearly are implying that I do. And I'm asking you -- I have given you my record. Now what is it you think I should have done that I didn't do? What are you implying I left undone?

From the April 9 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: Yesterday, we had the student on -- the Harvard student that confronted Barney Frank. Do you have -- do we have the clip, Willie --

GEIST: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -- of that confrontation --

GEIST: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and then this young man's response.

GEIST: Yeah, let me --

SCARBOROUGH: Take us though that.

GEIST: Let's set it up here. I know you had the young man on your radio show yesterday. But first, for people who didn't see it, the exchange -- this actually happened on Monday at Harvard University -- a young student there, or a law student actually at Harvard, confronting Congressman Barney Frank about whether or not he takes blame, or how much blame he takes for the current financial crisis. Here's that exchange.

[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?

POLLAK: Well, first of all, you pushed a stimulus bill through Congress that included several positions -- provisions that you later attacked as profoundly wasteful and so on --

FRANK: Who did? Not me.

POLLAK: -- like the 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 you --

[...]

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 with you, 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 --

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Stop labeling him.

FRANK: -- from getting regulation.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Stop labeling him. Just answer the question.

FRANK: I -- 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]

POLLAK [audio clip]: When I heard his speech and I heard the way he was responding to other questions, I was just amazed by the way in which he seemed to blame everyone else for the financial crisis. And I don't think he bears sole responsibility for it at all, but it just struck me that he wasn't taking any responsibility. And I thought that the man who's going to be responsible for redesigning our nation's financial system should at least admit to what he's taken part in so that he can fix it in the future.

GEIST: So there you have it. That's the student named Joel Pollak. Joe, you had him on the radio show. We just heard there. What were your impressions of the guy?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, he actually was a -- he was a Democratic leader on campus last year --

GEIST: A Democratic leader.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and he just said -- yeah. He said he was just disappointed. Mike, we had talked about this before. We're not blaming everything on Barney. It's everybody's fault, but how sad is it that this young man was trying to get a leader to say, "Yes, I bear some responsibility," and he wouldn't answer that question. And not only that, he attacked him as a right-wing stooge --

BARNICLE: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and then said, attacking him and labeling him is important.

BARNICLE: Look, very few people know as much about the status of the financial crisis that we're in and how we got into it than Barney Frank. I would stack him up in terms of intellect against Ben Bernanke or anyone in Washington dealing with this crisis. But the idea that Barney, you know, seemed to be so thin-skinned in that brief appearance that we just saw, that clip there, and refused basically to say, "Yeah, we're all responsible; all of us played a part in where we are today," is disappointing to say the least.

From the April 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

[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 bear?

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]

DOOCY: All right.

KILMEADE: Right. Why didn't he answer that? Barney Frank was clearly off his game.

DOOCY: And the kid who threw him off his game was a Harvard student by the name of Joel Pollak, and he had some great questions, didn't he, Fox News contributor and conservative blogger Michelle Malkin -- joining us live from Denver.

MALKIN: I thought he did. I -- and my hat's off to him. In fact, anyone who believes in an honest exchange of ideas and civil discourse on a college campus should take their hats off to this student. And you saw how unflappable he was and how unrattled he was, compared to Barney Frank, who had a chip on his shoulder the size of a sequoia tree.

You know, an honest politician who is more introspective about his true responsibility for this crisis might have said, "You know, that is a really good question. Hardly anybody in the mainstream media has ever asked me about that. And now that I think about it, yeah, I do bear some responsibility" --

KILMEADE: Right.

MALKIN: -- "for it."

KILMEADE: And what I found also is when you're in a controversial situation, a lot -- the people -- he should embrace an opportunity to define himself because his name is brought up whether he wants it to or not. But in particular, that question was so obviously -- Barney Frank yelled at the kid, rather than answer the question. And I was astounded that they labeled this kid a conservative. How do you even know this Harvard kid's a conservative? He just asked the question: What responsibility do you have?

MALKIN: Exactly right. And there was a student behind him, who Joel identified as his girlfriend, who actually had the courage to stand up to Barney Frank, as well, and said, "Wait a minute. Why do you keep throwing those labels around?" And this is what happens. When you challenge liberal authority, you're automatically labeled a right-winger.

This has nothing to do with partisan purposes. This has to do with holding these politicians accountable --

DOOCY: Sure.

MALKIN: -- for their words. And it was Barney Frank himself who said at a house hearing in 1993 -- 2003 that, quote, "I do not see a crisis." He did not see it coming. Mr. all-omniscient, omniscient, omniscient, and all-powerful Barney Frank, who has no trouble badgering and bullying everyone else for not foreseeing what was coming, didn't see it himself.

DOOCY: Yeah. And because the mainstream media, Michelle, would never ask that question of him, that kid up in Harvard was as close as we're going to get to try and get an answer, and he just stonewalled him.

From the April 8 edition of Fox News' O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Even in liberal precincts like Harvard University, disenchantment is setting in. A few days ago, Congressman Barney Frank spoke at the Kennedy School of Government and was challenged by a student who asked him exactly what I asked Frank. What is your responsibility in the economic decline?

[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?

POLLAK: Well, first of all, you pushed a stimulus bill through Congress that included several positions -- provisions that you later attacked as profoundly wasteful and so on --

FRANK: Who did? Not me.

POLLAK: -- like the 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 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 with you, when you say you haven't made an accusation. You said it happened on my watch.

[end video clip]

O'REILLY: And it did. So, here's the problem: Barney Frank and most of the other politicians simply will not take any responsibility when things go wrong, and the folks are sick of it. We still don't know who was responsible when Iraq went south.

Look, governing is a tough business. Mistakes are going to be made. But when our leaders fail to admit their misjudgments and blame the other party, it gets nauseating. I mean, are you not tired of hearing the Obama crew blame the Bush crew for everything that's going wrong now?

The truth is that Barney Frank made big mistakes. So did Senator Chris Dodd [D-CT], President George Bush, former SEC boss Chris Cox, and many other big shots in Washington.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, MSNBC
Person
Bill O'Reilly, Joe Scarborough, Mike Barnicle
Show/Publication
The O'Reilly Factor, Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
Attacks on Progressives, Propaganda/Noise Machine
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