ABC Frets That 'Angry Talk' From Sarah Palin, Boehner 'Could Push a Deranged Person Over the Edge'

Good Morning America on Thursday worried about the possible violence Sarah Palin's Twitter page could cause to Democrats who voted for the health care bill. Guest host Bill Weir interviewed Barney Frank and fretted, "Some on the left have also been pointing to Sarah Palin's Twitter message encouraging her followers to 'Do not retreat. Instead, reload.'"

He ominously explained to viewers, "And her Facebook page has a map with cross-hairs on 20 Democrats who voted for the bill." Reporter Pierre Thomas also rehashed Democratic fears that "a toxic political environment is a catalyst for ugliness."

He touted complaints by Democratic Congressman Steve Driehaus that Republican Minority Leader John Boehner said he would be a political "dead man" if he voted for the bill. Thomas intoned, "The fears that all this angry talk could push a deranged person over the edge."

While talking to Frank, Weir quoted the Massachusetts Democrat using questionable political language of his own. Having moved on to the subject of banking reform, the co-host played this clip of Frank in Congress:

BARNEY FRANK: There will be death panels enacted by Congress this year, I hope. But they will be for the large institutions that will be put out of business, whose shareholders will be wiped out, whose executives will be fired, whose boards of directors will be replaced.

However, Weir either didn't get, or chose not to raise, the obvious point: Should shareholders be worried about violence by anti-capitalist liberals? Is Frank himself advocating violence? Instead, Weir blandly wondered, "Just in case some of the shareholders are watching this morning, I'm sure they're curious. What large institutions would you like to see wiped out?"

A transcript of the March 25 segment, which aired at 7:08am EDT, follows:

BILL WEIR: And joining us now, a man who is no stranger to the vitriol that's been kicked up in this debate, Congressman Barney Frank. Thanks for joining us this morning, Barney. Do you believe that you or members of your caucus are in real danger this morning?

REP. BARNEY FRANK: I don't, at this point. I will tell you, in my own case, when people harp on my sexual orientation, I get more after-death threats than death threats. They tell me what's going to happen to me for all eternity. And I very much doubt their ability to influence that. So, it doesn't trouble me. But the point is, that's not an atmosphere in which you want to deliberate. These are tough issues we have. There are legitimate arguments against the health bill. We ought to be having that debate without people saying, "Well, wait a minute. My wife, my kids, my husband, my family." You shouldn't have people say, "You know, maybe I shouldn't get up and speak because I can't do this to my kids in school." That's what makes it so illegitimate, even if it doesn't reach the point of someone being threatens. And we don't know that. There have been people who have shot other people. There have been bombings. But even if it doesn't reach that level, it's an effort to kind of hijack the debate by coercive elements. And, you know, I'm glad the Republican leadership colleagues denounce it. But they were very late to do that. Over the weekend, they were much more egging on this behavior than denouncing it.

WEIR: Some on the left have also been pointing to Sarah Palin's Twitter message encouraging her followers to "Do not retreat. Instead, reload." And her Facebook page has a map with cross-hairs on 20 Democrats who voted for the bill. But as you say, Minority Leader Boehner denounced it. We heard from him there. What do you hope to see from Republican leadership going forward?

FRANK: One, there ought to be apologies. For John Boehner, going back to going to the American bankers and promising he would kill any form of financial reform. And belittled the people who work up here as little punk staffers. That's the beginning of the bullying. You know, it's ironic. We've got junior high school students to stop the bullying. My state of Massachusetts, unanimously, voted an anti-bullying bill. Then, kids turn on and they see members of Congress engaging in that kind of activity or cheering it on. When two people disrupted the proceedings on Sunday by shouting from the balcony, which is, really, undermining of the fundamentals of democracy, and the guys you work for tried to remove them. Republicans were standing on their feet, cheering them on. Urging them, physically, to resist the officials. So, I guess it's too late to undo that. I think they should apologize. But what I would like is for them to denounce this without, sort of, qualifying, the denunciations, with out explaining it. Without saying, as I heard John Boehner say the other day, "Of course you have a right to be angry. These are terrible tactics, but- " Why not get up and say, "This is wrong"? There's no justification for it. And let's have a debate on the merits.

WEIR: Okay. Let's pivot to the next item on your to-do list, which is sweeping financial regulation. You met with the President yesterday. Promised that these new reforms would be passed this year. But then, you also said this. Let's listen.

[In Congress]

FRANK: There will be death panels enacted by Congress this year, I hope. But they will be for the large institutions that will be put out of business, whose shareholders will be wiped out, whose executives will be fired, whose boards of directors will be replaced.

WEIR: Just in case some of the shareholders are watching this morning, I'm sure they're curious. What large institutions would you like to see wiped out?

FRANK: I wouldn't like to see any of them wiped out. And I hope that the bill we that have, that we're going to enact, Senator Dodd and the President and I, clearly, we're on schedule to the toughest new forms of financial regulation since the New Deal. We hope it will keep any institutions from getting to the point, like AIG or Lehman Brothers we saw a couple years ago, where they became so indebted they couldn't pay their debts. And that threatened terrible financial harm because all of the people they owed money to would be damaged.

WEIR: But, but are there existing banks you see falling as a result of the new legislation?

FRANK: Well, you might want to check with the business reporters to understand why I'm not going to mention any names here, given what that would do in the market. But, the other point I would make is this: I don't think that we will reach that point. I think we have rules in place now that prevent them from doing that. We have rules in place that say you cannot over-leverage. You cannot continue to do what you're doing. You cannot continue to in-debt yourself without capital. You have to raise your capital or cut back on what you're doing. But we can't be sure that that will succeed. And what we're saying, if an institution becomes so indebted and there's so little capital that it can't pay its debts, unlike AIG, which was kept alive in 2008, unlike some of the others, that will go out of business. The federal government will step in. It will dissolve that institution. It may pay some of the debts, if it chooses to, purely to avoid a downward cycle. But you're not going to have any institution kept alive with federal funding.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org