N.C. Sen. Burr downplays ATM flap

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr downplayed the flap over his withdrawal of money from an ATM during last fall's banking crisis, saying he did what many people did.

Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, said Thursday that there were questions about the liquidity of the banking industry that led to the first emergency federal bailout. So while he was in Washington, he called his wife, Brooke, at their Winston-Salem home and asked that she withdraw $500 from an ATM over the weekend.

"There are individuals in this country who keep cash at home," Burr said in an interview after a talk to coalition of officials from the biopharmaceutical industry. "I don't happen to be one of those. I live from ATM machine to ATM machine. The reality is when you look at a financial industry that is not exchanging capital, it immediately says you better have a little bit of cash set aside."

During the past two days, Burr has come under sharp criticism from liberal commentators. MSNBC Rachel Maddow called him "bank-run Burr," and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann designated him as "the worst person in the world." The flame has been fanned by Democrats in Washington and Raleigh who hope to unseat Burr when he faces re-election in 2010.

Burr said he has told the story about asking his wife to withdraw cash during numerous speeches during the past two-and-a-half months without anybody raising any questions. But when his comments in a speech Monday in Hendersonville were reported in the media it created national attention.

Burr said he told the story because he wanted people to understand the "frame of mind" of members of Congress when they authorized the bailout of the bank industry last fall.

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