Barney Frank: I’m the reason Sam Nunn never became secretary of state

Openly gay former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank has never been known for holding his tongue, and he further bolstered that reputation in a weekend interview with Bill Nigut on GPB’s Two-Way Street.

Frank, who’s on a book tour for his memoir “Frank: My Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage,” said Newt Gingrich has no principles and that Frank persuaded President Bill Clinton not to name Nunn his secretary of state due to the former Georgia senator’s anti-LGBT record.

Of Gingrich, who became House speaker in 1994:

He’s a man of no obvious principle. He was a more moderate Republican when he first got here and then he became a super right-winger. He just wanted power.

But most of Frank’s ire was saved for Nunn:

Sam Nunn actually fired two men at two different points from his staff when he found out they were gay. Geez, even some of the right-wing Republicans wouldn’t do that.

And then he was at his worse when [President] Bill Clinton tried to get rid of the ban on gays in the military. Nunn became the leading opponent of that. He had more hearings, questioning sailors in their bunks about gay people, than he did about NATO.

Later, in 1996, after he succeeded in that,…Senator [Ted] Kennedy brought up this bill to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment. It was a pretty partisan vote. Republicans had a majority….All but five [Democrats] voted for this bill. Four of them were over 70 – there’s a generational thing there. And then there was Sam Nunn….

Later that year, after he committed the third serious assault on fair treatment for us, I get a call from a friend in the White House who said Clinton was thinking seriously about making Nunn secretary of state. And I wrote Clinton a very strong memo, saying that would be an outrage. That would be a betrayal of your friends and those of us who defended you.

Frank says when Clinton was asked in an interview years later why he didn’t bring Nunn into his administration, Clinton showed the interviewer Frank’s memo.

Frank made headlines last year in a wide-ranging interview with the Georgia Voice with his comments on Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, questioning his political judgement and saying he was wrong on the strategy to get a nationwide decision on marriage equality in 2013.

(h/t AJC)