Frank haunted by 2003 remarks on lenders

Oct. 14, 2010 at 9:39 PM

BROOKLINE, Mass., Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Remarks about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., during a 2003 committee hearing have become a campaign issue in 2010.

Frank said then that the two government enterprises were strong enough to withstand any threats -- and that if they did get into trouble they would not get a government bailout. Sean Bielat, the Republican seeking Frank's seat, has a clip from 2003 on his campaign Web site, "Retire Barney," and Frank has been struggling to explain himself, The Boston Globe reports.

Frank acknowledges what he said in 2003 was "wrong on both counts." He said he was defending Fannie and Freddie because he was afraid the Bush administration wanted to shut them down.

Armando Falcon, who headed the government office in charge of overseeing Fannie and Freddie, reported in early 2003 that both had taken on too much risky debt. Both President Bill Clinton and his successor, George W. Bush, had pushed Fannie and Freddie to expand acquisition of mortgages to expand home ownership.

Bielat calls Frank "one of the leaders of economic disaster" but Peter Morici, a conservative leaning University of Maryland economist, called the mortgage crisis a "bipartisan mess.''

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