Following in President Clinton's footsteps, a prominent Democratic congressman yesterday accused a Fox News anchor of conducting a skewed interview designed to make Democrats look bad.
"I've got to say, Chris, you have an odd view of balance," Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts told the host of "Fox News Sunday," Chris Wallace. "I am struck by the tenor of your questions. You advertise this as giving us a chance to talk about what we're going to do, but everything is aimed at trying to put us in a kind of a bad light and look at the most controversial and not very representative things that we plan to do," Mr. Frank said.
The congressman objected to Mr. Wallace's questioning at four different points during the segment, which featured three soon-to-be chairmen of powerful committees, Rep. Charles Rangel of Manhattan and Queens, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, and Mr. Frank.
Before Mr. Frank's most vociferous objection, Mr. Wallace had asked questions mentioning pressure from liberal Democratic activists, tax hikes on the wealthy, abortion, gay rights and the ban on gays in the armed forces, a military draft, the disputed chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, and a statement in which Mr. Frank said the likely speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, had made "an error of judgment" in a leadership contest.
Mr. Wallace did not defend himself on the air, but he said to Mr. Frank, "Let me see if I can do better." The Fox host went on to ask Mr. Rangel about Social Security, Mr. Dingell about what investigations he has in store, and Mr. Frank about a "grand bargain" that he has proposed to link future free trade to a commitment by companies to treat American workers fairly.
In an interview in September, President Clinton lashed out at Mr. Wallace over alleged bias. "You did Fox's bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me," the former president said, shaking his finger at the newsman.
Mr. Frank told The New York Sun that he was not trying to emulate Mr. Clinton. "I didn't get angry.I wasn't feeling defensive about myself," the congressman said. Mr. Frank said the questions were "appropriate" but misleading because of an introduction in which Mr. Wallace said the interview would inform viewers about what the Democratic chairmen planned to do with their new majority. "It was misleading advertising," the congressman said.
Mr. Frank said Mr. Wallace's questions improved after the on-air criticism. Asked how fair Fox is when compared to other news outlets, the congressman said the network is "substantially worse."
"Chris is actually one of the better ones," Mr. Frank added. "Some of them just cut you off if they don't agree with you. I think Fox is by far the most biased news medium in which I ever get involved."
A spokeswoman for the program declined to comment on Mr. Frank's critique.