Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) gave NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and the media a stern critique Tuesday morning over their coverage of politics.
On The Today Show, Guthrie began asking Frank if he “was leaving his fellow Democrats in the lerch” by not seeking re-election in 2012.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t running because I didn’t think I was going to win,” he said. “I didn’t think staying there until I was 75 was ideal. And when I saw the new district, it was 325,000 new people, it would mean almost full time campaigning, including raising a couple of million dollars.”
Guthrie then asked Frank if his decision “was a signal” that he didn’t think the Democrats would win back the House of Representatives next year.
“I wish we could talk substance sometimes in the media,” Frank sharply replied. “I know that’s against kind of apparently the rules, and I would like to talk about public policy. I regret that we can’t. Did you think I was going to serve until 106? I mean, I’m 71 years old. I decided not to serve until three months before my 75th birthday. I don’t understand why that’s so hard for people to gasp.”
Guthrie turned focus to Congress’ low approval rating, asking Frank if that made him think differently about his work in Congress.
“Well, you exemplify what I think is the change in the tone, you manage to ask all sort of negative questions,” he said. “I understand that’s the media’s current conceptional ritual. It didn’t use to be that way, and that’s part of the reason for the low approval. It’s gotcha this, it’s gotcha that, it’s gotcha journalism, it’s gotcha politics, and it does lessen our chances to get things done.”
“I’m not Congress as a whole. I’m very proud of the financial reform bill. I’m proud of progress we’ve made, for example, protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against prejudice and violence. I’m proud of the role I played frankly in frustrating the impeachment of Bill Clinton, one of the anti-democratic moves of all time that Newt Gingrich tried to pull off. So I’m prepare to talk about my own role. The fact that institutions in America today are less popular, the media is less popular, Congress is less popular, I don’t take that personally.”
Still focused on discussing the public’s poor perception of Congress, Guthrie asked Frank, “Do you feel any responsibility for your own role in kind of that tone in Washington, whether it be media or members of Congress?”
“Well congratulations, you’re four for four in managing to find the negative approach,” he replied.
“Where you have areas of disagreement, you ought to articulate those and let the electorate make choices. Where you have areas of agreement, and there are many of those, you ought to work constructively together. So I think I’ve been able to do both. Be sharp where there are differences, which is appropriate in a democracy, but reach out and be cooperative on those areas where we can work together.”
WATCH: Video from NBC, which was broadcast on November 29, 2011.