By Emmarie Huetteman
Representative Barney Frank will not go quietly.
Mr. Frank, from Massachusetts and the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, fired back at Newt Gingrich, who said in Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate that Mr. Frank and former Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut should go to jail for their role in the financial crisis.
"The Republicans -- part of the time under Newt Gingrich -- ran Congress from 1995 until 2006, the period during which the financial crisis began and then rose to disastrous proportions," Mr. Frank said Wednesday in a statement. "Chris Dodd and I were in the minority during that time, and in fact no remedial action was taken by Congress until we became chairmen of our respective committees in 2007 and 2008."
Mr. Frank was chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during the financial crisis, and Mr. Dodd was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
In the debate, Mr. Gingrich called Ben S. Bernanke "a disaster" as chairman of the Federal Reserve and said he and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner should both be fired. He also blamed the federal government for the financial crisis when asked if the Occupy Wall Street protesters had a legitimate grievance.
Then he took it a step further.
"If you want to put people in jail you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd," Mr. Gingrich said. "And let's look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment and the politicians who put this country in trouble."
When the moderator Charlie Rose gave him a chance to walk back his remarks, Mr. Gingrich pressed onward, calling for a closer look at Mr. Frank's connections with Freddie Mac and Mr. Dodd's connections with Countrywide Financial.
Congress passed the financial overhaul bill known as the Dodd-Frank Act last year, and it was signed into law by President Obama. While several candidates called for the repeal of the law on Tuesday, Mr. Gingrich was the only one to call for criminal action against its sponsors.
In his statement, Mr. Frank said, "Apparently, Newt Gingrich -- who considers himself one of the intellectual leaders of the free world -- is so embarrassed by the fact that he is running behind Michele Bachmann in Republican polls that it has increased his already well-developed propensity to utter outlandish things."
Mr. Dodd, who is now the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, could not be reached for comment.