Barney Frank re-enters the No Spin Zone

Ex-Congressman discusses his controversial remarks on the Boston bombing


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 26, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY: Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly reporting tonight from Washington, D.C. thanks for watching us. No "Talking Points" memo this evening because I want to get right to our lead story an interview with former Congressman Barney Frank.

As you may know, the day after three were killed and more than 200 injured in that awful Boston terror attack last week, Mr. Frank became a center of controversy. While speaking on the phone to CNN, he put forth a political point of view.

FRANK: In this terrible situation, let's be very grateful that we had a well-funded functioning government. It is very fashionable in America to face interest on trying to criticize government, belittle public employees; talk about their pensions to talk about what people think is their excessive healthcare. Here we saw government in two ways perform very well.

I never was as a member of Congress a one of the cheerleader for nice government, lower taxes. No tax cut would have helped us deal with this or will help us recover. This is very expensive.


O'REILLY: Now after Mr. Frank said that, some journalists, including this one, thought his comments were too close to the death and destruction. Even the liberal MSNBC challenged Frank.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you keep talking about revenue and the infrastructure and the fact that we have the capabilities necessary to respond to something as atrocious as this. Do you feel like you're capitalizing and making political hay of this event that happened?

FRANK: I'm not sure what that I'm capitalizing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that you are making a political argument about revenue right now.

FRANK: Yes. Exactly.


O'REILLY: Joining us now from Boston is Barney Frank. So in hindsight do you think you should have waited a few days before making those points?

FRANK: No, for two reasons. First, that's a partial quote of what I said. When I was called on that day, in every case there were three or four interviews, I began by talking about how terrible it was that some people were there with people they loved and all of a sudden they were dead.

In every one of those interviews I began when they asked me my reaction by talking about the sadness we all had to feel. Several of the interviewers then pressed me for further reaction. And I don't think a discussion of public policy is either inappropriate or premature.

By the way, I do know that many others were talking about immigration. You and Dennis Miller were discussing my remarks a day or two later and Mr. Miller was complaining, as I recall it, that President Obama hadn't called it terrorism on the first day. He waited until the second day. Well that was an appropriate criticism given his viewpoint of the President.

The notion that you suspend discussion of important issues in the face of a tragedy I will accept. Now I did as I said begin all the interviews with my feeling of sadness and my condolences for the people.


O'REILLY: All right. But here's why -- here is why it might be inappropriate. Because when you say that look, no tax cut would help this situation, you're basically polarizing Americans who want lower taxes, smaller government.

But in a time like this, in Boston and you are from Boston, I wanted to see -- I called for on the air all Americans to come together. All right? Not only to support the grieving families but also to show the world that we're a united front. And you're not going to come in here to our house and intimidate us.

FRANK: I agree.


O'REILLY: By your rhetoric -- by your rhetoric, you're dividing people 24 hours after when I think we should have all, all of us in the public eye, been trying to unite people --

FRANK: I would have to ask when that was. Because I remember two days after you and Mr. Miller being critical of a range of things, including Mr. Miller with you cheering him on attacking President Obama for his response. No I think it is dividing people --


O'REILLY: No we didn't attack President Obama for his response. We ask why --


FRANK: May I -- excuse me Mr. Miller did --


O'REILLY: -- we asked why the term Islamic jihad was --

FRANK: Yes and Mr. Miller was very critical of the President for not having said terrorism on the first day and he said it on the second day --


O'REILLY: Yes that's -- all that is holding people account --


FRANK: Excuse me Bill, Bill wait a minute can I -- because I know the ground rules, can I know the ground rules? Do I get to talk?

O'REILLY: Talk yes.

FRANK: Ok Mr. Miller was being critical of the President. That was his right. And as far as dividing the country, the country is divided as it should be in a democracy. Referring to existing divisions is not polarizing. I didn't know you were opposed to polarizing. I couldn't tell that from watching your show much of the time. But I think that's legitimate.

As I said yes it was appropriate to talk about these -- the sympathy we felt and the horror but when I was asked for further reaction that was the reaction. And I do think that is a legitimate debate in America.


FRANK: And the other thing I would ask you, is what you said not the day after two days after or three days after? When did it become appropriate? Because I heard many people from all parts of the spectrum being appropriately -- not political in the sense you're trying to win elections but saying what they thought public policy ought to be much of that week.

O'REILLY: All right, look. We have two positions, my position and what I called for on the night of the bombing was all Americans come together. And your position 24 hours after that you divided America on a policy basis and people can decide what's worthy and what isn't.

FRANK: I reject that. No Bill I didn't divide America. I didn't divide America.

O'REILLY: Sure you did.

FRANK: America is appropriately divided.


O'REILLY: You cast aspersions on those people who want smaller government and lower taxes.

FRANK: Not on that people -- not on that people.

O'REILLY: In a time where we all should have been united.

FRANK: Oh I did not cast aspersion on them.

O'REILLY: Of course you did.


FRANK: May I finish? Again let's -- can I have, I listen to you.

O'REILLY: Come on you've had twice as much time as I've had so far? Go make your point.

FRANK: May I speak. Mr. Miller was in fact being critical of the President. I didn't mention the individuals. I wasn't casting aspersion on people. I was expressing differences with their viewpoint. And I do not think that it is appropriate to say gee, bad people who hate democracy did things. Let's not have a discussion of issues. It was not casting aspersions, it was not dividing people. It was referring to an existing debate in this country. And I have to ask you when was it appropriate to talk politics? Wednesday, not Tuesday?


O'REILLY: I think maybe aired it out by the end of the week. And then we had of course the crackdown --


FRANK: Well, Mr. Miller, doing it on Wednesday. Mr. Miller was being critical on Wednesday.

O'REILLY: All right, it's not even close to the same ballpark.

FRANK: Mr. Miller --

O'REILLY: It's not even close.

FRANK: Mr. Miller has been very is critical of the President.

O'REILLY: All right.

FRANK: No, it's right at home plate. Mr. Miller was attacking the President for not saying terrorism on Wednesday.

O'REILLY: What do you think about that by the way? What do you think about that?

FRANK: Oh I think it was clearly terrorism. It was clearly terrorism.

O'REILLY: Ok what do you think about the Commander-in-Chief not saying that it was the Islamic jihad that was motivating force behind the terror attack? He won't say it. What do you think about that?

FRANK: Well I'd say two things. First of all, I think you were trying to, you know, refer to a division of the country that's a good thing to do. That's legitimate. On the Monday, when Mr. Miller was -- was being critical of his comments on the Wednesday, nobody knew that it was Islamic terrorists. We knew it was terrorism. But nobody knew on the Monday, we didn't know what did it. So I don't say --

O'REILLY: But he has -- and still the President still hasn't defined it as jihadist action. Still.

FRANK: Well I don't know about jihad, I would say yes these were Islamist, these were people inspired by Islamic terrorism. I think people yes ought to be very clear about that. And I think that's a legitimate public policy debate --


O'REILLY: Why do you think the President is -- why do you think the President is not clear about it.

FRANK: I don't know. Bill I'm not in charge of -- I'm not in charge of explaining the President.

O'REILLY: Well you're a thinker, you know him very well, he is the leader of your party. You must have an opinion on him. You have an opinion on everything else.

FRANK: No, no, A, I don't have an opinion on everything else. I only have an opinion on things I know and the fact on the Monday I said, I had no idea when people asked me to speculate, one of the things I thought was unfortunate where a lot of people who used to be in the line of work I used to be in speculating about things they didn't know anything. I thought we should just defer to law enforcement.

O'REILLY: We didn't like that at all. Speculation is never good. So you just don't know why Barack Obama won't say this was generated by Islamist jihad?

FRANK: No I haven't --

O'REILLY: You're like me because I don't know. I mean and I'm asking you that you might have more of an insight.

FRANK: Well then you and I are together. All right, no you and I -- neither one of us know as I have not been in Washington, I've been out of Congress for some months and I've not been talking to his people about that.

I do think it's legitimate for people to debate that one way or the other. I don't think it's dividing the country to (inaudible). And I do think by the way that Boston has got serious problems now. The level of funding we put into the police forces, the effect of a sequester which we're seeing elsewhere. Those are very legitimate topic of a debate.

O'REILLY: They are legitimate debate topics.

FRANK: I don't think you are casting aspersions on people or dividing the country when you allude to existing legitimate public policy discussion after expressing sympathy. That's what I did.

O'REILLY: All right, Congressman, I think that we both got our points across tonight, which is what we do on this program. And we're glad you participated. Thanks very much.

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