(CNN) - Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, known for his unabashed bluntness, took aim at conservative radio and TV hosts Thursday night and said the foundation for today's often ruthless partisanship in Washington stems from the leadership of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno Thursday, Frank recalled the atmosphere in Washington during the early 1980s, a time he said when political rivals President Reagan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill would often joke that they were "friends after 5 p.m." But Frank said the atmosphere markedly changed when Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House in 1994.
"A very self-described partisan came to office, Newt Gingrich became the Speaker and he said, 'This is a mistake,'" he said. "That politics gets muffled if you act as if it's just all people with good will disagreeing. So they became angrier, we responded, Democrats to Republicans."
Frank said that when angry and sometimes violent protesters took up liberal causes such as Vietnam, "they didn't have mainstream media people on the radio cheering them on."
"They didn't have people saying, 'You're right.' They didn't have TV stations saying, 'Good for you, go throw another set of epithets.' And I think that part of the problem is that the worst behavior these days gets encouraged rather than discouraged."
Frank's message for today's protestors: "Rudeness is not a substitute for thought."
Leno ran through some word association with Frank as well.
Sarah Palin? "Quitter."
Mitt Romney? "Flip-flopper."
John McCain? "Old."
McCain, 73, is less than four years older than Frank.