Barney Frank stuns commencement crowd with speech
NEWTON, Mass. (WHDH) -- Democratic Representative Barney Frank raised eyebrows during his commencement speech at UMass Dartmouth when he referenced the Trayvon Martin case.
Barney Frank, never at a loss for words, drew gasps from the commencement crowd at UMass Dartmouth where his good friend Hubie Jones was awarded an honorary doctorate -- complete with a degree and hood.
"When they give you an honorary doctorate they give you one of these and Hubie, I think you now got a hoodie you can wear and no one will shoot at you," Frank said during his speech.
The crowd was stunned by the humor, and many in his district felt it was in poor taste.
“That’s terrible. That’s insensitive. I don't think that's an appropriate joke," one woman said.
The hoodie joke was a clear reference to the controversial Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman -- a shooting that has drawn thousands into the streets demanding justice for the young black man who was wearing a hoodie at the time of the shooting.
Jones, a long time social activist told 7News, "I don't believe Barney Frank meant any harm. He's a quick witted guy and within the context of the commencement it was a surprise."
For Frank, it should be no surprise that he was forced to explain himself in a statement, which says in part:
"I wore a hooded gown in three ceremonies earlier this year…used the same joke on myself…I shamelessly recycled the hoodie joke."
He went on to say he "used the ‘hoodie’ line to ridicule the notion that a hooded sweatshirt is somehow sinister."
Frank said he thinks the world of Hubie, but some of Frank's constituents don't think as highly of him.
"I definitely think he owes an apology to Hubie and then to the community as well," a woman said.
Hubie Jones and Barney Frank have been good friends and have worked alongside each other for decades.