Rep. Barney Frank told a joke about slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin during a commencement ceremony at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Sunday. The joke drew both laughter and groans from the attending crowd.
Frank praised his longtime friend, social justice leader Hubie Jones, who was receiving an honorary degree and hood from UMass.
“When they give you an honorary doctorate, they give you one of these and Hubie, I think you now got a hoodie you can wear and no one will shoot at you,” Frank said during his speech.
In the Florida shooting that took the life of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the young black man was wearing a hoodie at the time of his death. Thousands demanded justice for Martin’s killing in the weeks after by wearing hoodies as a symbol of their support of the boy.
“I don’t believe Barney Frank meant any harm,” Hubie Jones told 7News. “He’s a quick witted guy and within the context of the commencement it was a surprise.”
Frank claims he made the same joke at three other ceremonies earlier this year, where he wore a hooded gown. “I … used the same joke on myself … I shamelessly recycled the hoodie joke,” Frank explained in a written statement.
Frank spoke at commencements at Lasell College in Newton, Mass. May 13 and Suffolk University in Boston on May 19. He also spoke at his alma mater, Harvard, on May 23.
Frank also said in the statement that he “used the ‘hoodie’ line to ridicule the notion that a hooded sweatshirt is somehow sinister.”