Congressman Dick Armey

What was the accusation?

In January of 1995, House majority leader, Representative Dick Armey, received extensive media criticism when he referred to Representative Barney Frank, one of several openly homosexual members of Congress, as “Barney Fag.”Mr. Armey claimed that he had simply mispronounced Mr. Frank’s name and attacked the media for reporting it as a psychologically rooted belief.  First privately and then in addressing the House, he apologized to Mr. Frank for the remark, but Frank was hesitant to fully accept Armey’s apology.  He said: “I don’t think it was on the tip of his tongue, but I do believe it was in the back of his mind. There are a lot of ways to mispronounce my name. That is the least common.”

Key Apologia Strategies:

Accident, Attacking the Accuser, Bolstering, Mortification

Video of House Address

Transcript of House Address (Partial)

Mr. Speaker, I shall try to confine myself to reading a prepared statement.  Mr. Speaker, this morning I mispronounced the name of a friend and colleague, Barney Frank, in a way that sounds like a slur.  Let me make this absolutely clear.  The media and others are reporting this as if it were intentional and it was not.  I repeat, this was nothing more than the unintentional mispronunciation of another person’s name that sounded like something it was not.  There is no room in public discourse for such hateful language and I condemn the use of such slurs.  After I heard about how the story was being covered, I called Congressman Frank and I told him of my stumbling over his name and I apologized for the perception created by the press that I would even think of such terms.  It was not an attack.  It was not even a Freudian slip.  I have worked with Congressman Frank in the past. I consider him a friend.

I am disappointed that the media and others would take this incident and turn it into a firestorm.  A firestorm.  I take strong exception to the airing of the tape and even the transcribing of a stumbled word as if it were an intentional personal attack.  I take strong exception to the airing of the tape and even the transcribing of a stumbled word as if it were an intentional personal attack.  I take strong exception to the airing of the tape and even the transcribing of a stumbled word as if it were an intentional personal attack [Statement is repeated three times].  And I take this exception especially in light of the fact that I went to the press who had the tape and explained to them in the best humor I could that I had simply mispronounced a name and did not need any psychoanalysis about my subliminals or about my Freudian predilections, especially from people who are obviously not trained in psychological analysis.

With all of the issues the new Republican majority are bringing to the floor of this house, it is regrettable that an unintentional mispronunciation of a name in a way that would be clearly offensive, had it been intentional, should shift the public debate away from issues like balancing the budget, cutting taxes, and reforming our failed welfare system.  Can we not get back to real issues? Cannot the press report real events?

Mr. Speaker, I would like to for a moment thank my friend and colleague from California, Mr. Bill [unintelligible] for allowing me to proceed ahead of him in disorder.  I would like to thank the indulgence of this body for allowing me these moments.  I would like to thank my diligent, fair, and responsible friends in the press for ten years of what I believe to have been a good relationship with decent people doing their jobs.  Mr. Speaker, I have a family.  I have raised five children.  I spent a lifetime telling my children the rules of decent discourse, teaching them how to be respectful of other people.  We have a long list of words we don’t use, of names we don’t call.  Sentiments we don’t express.  We have another long list that comes under the general rule of my mother and father’s precious teaching about good manners, decent discourse, real respect for other people.  And to have my five children or anybody else’s five children turn on their t.v. today and see a transcript of a mispronunciation on the air€¦


Gray, J. (1995, January 28). No. 2 House leader refers to colleague with anti-gay slur. New York Times. Retrieved from:

Rep. Armey’s apology to Rep. Frank (1995, January 27). C-Span. Retrieved from:

Ross, M. (1995, January 28). Armey remark about democrat sparks furor: Politics: House majority leader says he merely mispronounced Rep. Frank’s name in an interview, but some think it was not an accident. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: