'Bold and Unabashed' - NPR Gushes Over Outgoing Rep. Barney Frank

NPR's Tovia Smith sang the praises of Congressman Barney Frank on Monday's All Things Considered: "Frank has proven both piercing and pithy, zinging one-liners....bold and unabashed." Smith barely included any dissenting voices in her report, playing four sound bites from the staunch liberal and his supporters, versus only two from opponents.

Host Melissa Block noted how Rep. Frank is a "leading liberal voice and one of the first openly gay congressman" in her introduction for the correspondent's report and added that "because his district has just been redrawn, he'd likely face a grueling reelection campaign." Smith continued by stating that "some of the Democratic strongholds he's represented for decades have been replaced by more conservative towns."

After playing two clips from the Massachusetts politician, the NPR journalist touched on Frank's apparent reputation: "Frank is known for not suffering fools gladly, and for being what friends call a pit bull. Indeed, even at his press conference today, he snapped at a reporter for what he called her attempt at a gotcha, and didn't hold back when confronted by a local Republican party activist." She followed this with a sound bite of an unidentified man holding the congressman responsible for the "financial meltdown."

Smith started her adulation immediately after this brief moment of criticism: "In Congress, Frank has proven both piercing and pithy, zinging one-liners- for example, in his fight for stricter regulation and more consumer protections in the banking industry." She then played one more sound bite from the Democrat from a 2010 appearance on MSNBC.

The correspondent reenforced her own praise by playing two clips from Frank's left-leaning allies, while barely touching on his ethics controversy from the 1980s (where Congress ultimately reprimanded the congressman for taking care of his lover's 33 parking tickets, as he was prostituting himself out from the politician's house):

SMITH: Frank has also been a staunch advocate for gay rights ever since he became the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as gay in 1987.

Frank Sainz is president of the Human Rights Campaign.

FRANK SAINZ: That is, perhaps, his legacy, in that he really did break through a lavender ceiling.

SMITH: Frank was equally bold and unabashed in his fight back 25 years ago from a personal scandal involving a live-in boyfriend who was working as a prostitute. He not only survived, but grew to become a leader of his party. President Obama today called him a fierce advocate for those who needed a voice, and said the House will not be the same without him.

New York Congressman Steve Israel is head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL, (D), NEW YORK: Barney Frank has never shied away from anything in his entire life. He is a lion of the House Democratic caucus, and there's no question that his voice will be missed.

Near the end of the segment, Smith briefly touched on how the Massachusetts GOP was celebrating Rep. Frank's retirement: "Republicans today were cheering the news, hoping it'll help them claim another seat long held by Democrats, like Scott Brown did when he won the Senate seat that used to be held by Ted Kennedy." She followed this with a clip from an unidentified Republican.

The full transcript of Tovia Smith's report from Monday's All Things Considered:

MELISSA BLOCK: After 30 years in Congress, Democrat Barney Frank is retiring. A leading liberal voice, and one of the first openly gay congressman, the 71-year-old from Massachusetts says he's leaving, in part, because his district has just been redrawn. He'd likely face a grueling reelection campaign.

As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, Frank also says he feels like he's accomplished a lot, and wants to do other things.

TOVIA SMITH: Frank says he wanted to retire two years ago, but felt an obligation to stay in Congress and fight for financial reform and for cuts in military spending. Now that his district has been redrawn, and some of the Democratic strongholds he's represented for decades have been replaced by more conservative towns, Frank says he'd be bogged down trying to sell himself to hundreds of thousands of new voters, and unable to focus on his work in Washington.

REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: With the new district, I couldn't do that because I would have to spend all the time campaigning. So the new district took away the obligation I felt to run.

SMITH: Frank says he'd having an especially difficult time selling himself to voters, knowing it was only for one more term, anyway. At 71, he says he has other things he wants to do, like writing, teaching, and speaking out on public policy, freed up from political constraints.

FRANK: One of the advantages to me of not running for office is, I don't even have to pretend to try to be nice to people I don't like. (audience laughs) Some of you may not think I've been good at it, but I've been trying.

SMITH: Frank is known for not suffering fools gladly, and for being what friends call a pit bull. Indeed, even at his press conference today, he snapped at a reporter for what he called her attempt at a gotcha, and didn't hold back when confronted by a local Republican party activist.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1 (from press conference): Which led to our financial meltdown

FRANK: I was opposed to that-

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: You were responsible for that, sir.

FRANK: No. I'm trying to have a rational conversation with you. I was clearly mistaken.

SMITH: In Congress, Frank has proven both piercing and pithy, zinging one-liners- for example, in his fight for stricter regulation and more consumer protections in the banking industry, as he did here on MSNBC in 2010, fighting for the legislation that became the Dodd-Frank Act.


FRANK: In the financial area, the problem was the government wasn't there. The government- the cop went off the beat when they were doing all these abuses, when they were making mortgage loans that shouldn't have been made-

SMITH: Frank has also been a staunch advocate for gay rights ever since he became the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as gay in 1987.

Frank Sainz is president of the Human Rights Campaign.

FRANK SAINZ: That is, perhaps, his legacy, in that he really did break through a lavender ceiling.

SMITH: Frank was equally bold and unabashed in his fight back 25 years ago from a personal scandal involving a live-in boyfriend who was working as a prostitute. He not only survived, but grew to become a leader of his party. President Obama today called him a fierce advocate for those who needed a voice, and said the House will not be the same without him.

New York Congressman Steve Israel is head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL, (D), NEW YORK: Barney Frank has never shied away from anything in his entire life. He is a lion of the House Democratic caucus, and there's no question that his voice will be missed.

SMITH: Israel says he expects Democrats to hold Frank's seat. But Republicans today were cheering the news, hoping it'll help them claim another seat long held by Democrats, like Scott Brown did when he won the Senate seat that used to be held by Ted Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: It is an early Christmas present. We are ecstatic. His seat is very winnable. That was proven by Scott Brown, and we are going to win it.

SMITH: It will no doubt be a bruising campaign. Frank says today's brand of personal attacks and nasty politics are part of what makes him relieved to be retiring. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Newton, Massachusetts.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center