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Exclusive: Frank Talk from Barney's Foe

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 7, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: There was a showdown yesterday on Harvard's campus between Congressman Barney Frank and a Harvard law student. Congressman Frank was giving a speech at the Kennedy School of Government, and while he was taking questions from the audience, a student confronted the congressman about the extent of his role in the financial crisis.


JOEL POLLAK, HARVARD LAW STUDENT: My name is Joel Pollak, and I'm a student at the law school. In your account of how the subprime mortgage crisis came about, you mentioned the Reagan administration, the Bush administration, the Republicans in Congress, conservatives. But it happened on your watch. And I would just like to ask you...


POLLAK: When you became the chairman of the...

FRANK: Which was when?

POLLAK: It was in 2007. I'm still waiting -- I'm still waiting for a very simply answer to a question...

FRANK: And I'm waiting for you to tell me what you think I should have done. I didn't say (INAUDIBLE)

POLLAK: No, you're a public representative. I'm a student. I'm asking you...

FRANK: Oh, which allows you to say things that you don't back up?

POLLAK: I'm asking...


POLLAK: It does -- it does allow me to ask you a question. I'm waiting for you to explain...

FRANK: OK, I'll give you an answer.

POLLAK: ... how much, if any, responsibility do you think you (INAUDIBLE)

FRANK: Well, I will take this. First of all, you are a student. Students are entitled to full constitutional freedom of speech under the 1st Amendment. You've made an accusation that is wholly inaccurate.

POLLAK: I didn't accuse you of anything. I'm asking how much responsibility...

FRANK: Sure.

POLLAK: ... if any -- you can say none. That's fine.

FRANK: I think you're being disingenuous.

I became chairman on January -- and this is the right-wing attack on liberals to try and stop regulation that you are repeating. On January 31st, I became the chairman. On March 28th, 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 restrictions, 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 of 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...

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...


VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us live is Harvard law student Joel Pollak, who you just saw debating Congressman Frank. Welcome, Joel. Joel, first of all, I want to, I guess, play a little bit of law school with you and parse what you said. You said -- this was the question that the congressman took issue, is that how much responsibility, if any, do you have for the financial crisis? Was that the question?

POLLAK: That was the question.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So when Congressman Barney Frank says you're accusing him of something, I guess I would say the "if any" would give him a way to get in or out, saying he had responsibility or none. So your thought on that?

POLLAK: Well, he could have said none. I would have been satisfied if he had acknowledged some of his role as ranking Democrat prior to the time he became chairman and his long history on the Financial Services Committee. But he didn't want to do that. Instead, he wanted to deflect blame onto everybody else except himself.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The question seemed like a -- at least in my opinion, seemed like fair one, since it wasn't accusative or leading, as you might say in law school, but asking how much, if any, giving him an out. But was he -- did he have that same demeanor in answering other questions, or was it just with yours?

POLLAK: Well, to be fair, some of the people who preceded asked some fairly crazy questions. We had a 9/11 conspiracy theorist there and some of the LaRouche people. But I asked him what I felt was a pretty straightforward question. I actually was going to ask him about his position on the AIG bonuses because The Wall Street Journal reported that he paid bonuses to his own staff. So I was going to ask him about that, as well as about his plans to regulate executive pay across the board.

But when I saw him not just in his responses to questions, but when I heard his speech and I heard him blame everyone from Ronald Reagan to the conservatives of the 1930s for opposing whatever it was he was pushing, I thought to myself, Hang on a second. This guy is someone in a position of responsibility and authority. This guy is the one who's making the regulations. He's responsible, essentially, for recreating and redesigning our financial system, and he's not taking any responsibility for what happened at all.

Watch Greta's interview

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. He said that it was part of a right-wing attack. I think at some point, you said that you were a conservative. Are you part of some, you know, right-wing organization? You know, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

POLLAK: Sure. Well, when I came to law school, I was actually a Democrat. My first year, I was the section representative to the Harvard law school Democrats. But I found that my positions differed widely from those of some of my friends and those of the Democratic Party, especially on foreign policy, but on other issues, as well. And I liked many Democratic politicians. I voted for Senator Obama when he was running for senator in 2004, but I was disappointed with the job he did for Illinois.

I still had some hope for him as a candidate, but as the election cycle started, I really was alarmed by some of the things he was saying about foreign policy and about free trade and the economy. So I had always admired Senator McCain, and I volunteered on the McCain campaign, and that was my first time that I was involved in Republican politics of any kind.

And one of the reasons I don't consider myself a Democrat anymore is because whenever you ask a question, you're labeled. You're put into a box. I found that even when I was a left-wing Democrat, as I was -- and I was so left-wing in my undergrad days that I thought Bill Clinton was too far to the center. When I would go to left-wing events, I found that questioners did exactly what Congressman Frank did. When I went to conservative events, they listened to the question and they gave me an answer. And so I think that that has a profound effect on you over time, if you're the kind of person who's curious about the way the world works.

VAN SUSTEREN: Joel, thank you. And good luck completing your studies at Harvard. Thank you, Joel.

POLLAK: Thank you.

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