Barney Frank has enemies, even 30,000 feet in the air.
Flying back to Boston from LA yesterday, the congressman was assailed by a pair of ophthalmologists upset about the health care reform bill. An argument ensued that prompted some passengers to wonder if the plane might be forced to land.
"No one was calming things down and people were standing up shouting," said Brooke Sexton, who was seated seven rows behind Barney.
Accustomed as he is to being conservatives's favorite bad guy, Frank mostly ignored the doctors's taunts, Sexton said, but the congressman's partner, Jim Ready, did not.
The problem started soon after the ophthalmologists - two sisters on their way to a conference in Boston - boarded the Virgin flight. When they discovered that Frank was sitting nearby, the women loudly dissed the landmark health care bill as an "Obamanation." (Frank was returning from LA, where he'd received an award from the Greenlining Institute, an economic development group for minorities, and appeared on Jay Leno's show.)
"They wanted to talk to me, but I apologized and said I like to read and watch on planes," Frank told us today. "They began to talk louder and that's when Jimmy (Ready) said, 'If you're trying to be bitchy, you're doing a good job."
Needless to say, the women didn't appreciate the remark, and things got heated. (Attempts to locate or ID the women were unsuccessful.) Sexton, who's an HR director for the UK-based retailer All Saints Spitalfields, said flight attendants weren't working hard enough to defuse the situation, so she got involved.
"The women had been drinking, and they were crying and shouting," Sexton said. "They were clearly the antagonizers, and Mr. Frank was kind of minding his own business." (She said Ready also upset another passenger, calling him "Santa Claus.") Finally, the parties calmed down and remained quiet for the rest of the flight. (Sexton was offered some complementary wine for her trouble.)
Said Frank: "It reminds me of the joke about the woman who's in a restaurant and Clark Gable's there. She complains to the waiter, 'Clark Gable is annoying me.' The waiter says, 'He's not even talking to you,' and she says, 'Yes, and I find that very annoying.'"
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