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Armey Calls ‘Fag’ Reference Slip of Tongue

January 28, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Majority Leader Dick Armey has apologized for referring to a homosexual colleague, Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, as ``Barney Fag″ during an interview. He said it was a slip of the tongue.

Frank said he did not believe the remark, which Armey made during a session with broadcast reporters on Friday, was intentional.

``But I could not accept that it was wholly accidental,″ Frank said after listening to a tape of the interview. ``I just had to believe that it was somewhere in the back of his mind.″

In a House floor speech later, Armey protested that the news media were creating a ``firestorm″ from what was an honest mistake. ``This was nothing more than an unintentional mispronunciation of another person’s name,″ he said.

After watching the speech in his office, Frank said, ``I do appreciate in part what Dick Armey said. ... The fact that Dick Armey considered this to be a really negative accusation ... is some sign of progress.″

The incident set off a new round of counterattacks by Democrats, who have seized every available chance to criticize the House’s new GOP leaders.

``Mr. Armey is too damn careless with his mouth,″ said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who called the comment part of a Republican ``strategy of hatred and division.″

The comment occurred when reporters asked about a book he is writing. Armey decided last year to give all proceeds to charity, which he said would avoid the kind of criticism House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., is facing over his book deal.

``I like peace and quiet,″ Armey said. ``And I don’t need to listen to Barney Fag (pause), Barney Frank, (emphasis on `Frank’) haranguing in my ear because I made a few bucks off a book I worked on. I just don’t want to listen to it.″

Later, he explained to reporters that ``I had a trouble with alliteration. I was stumbling, mumbling. ... Barney Frank is a friend of mine. I don’t use the word in personal conversation. I would not use such an expression and I don’t approve of anyone who does this.″

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