The Washington Post

If it’s Clinton vs. Ryan in 2016, Frank Underwood already has his pick

Kevin Spacey as U.S. Rep. Frank Underwood in a scene from the Netflix original series “House of Cards.” (Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix via AP)

Sure, a presidential contest between Paul Ryan and Hillary Clinton would be billed as a race between the future of the GOP versus the old guard of the Democrats.

But Friday we learned of an even greater divide between the two pols that gets right to the heart of Washington: “House of Cards.”

In an interview with Parade Magazine, Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) revealed a secret that so few Washington insiders have ever shared (more on that later). He doesn’t like the show. Say what?

Ryan was turned off by the Netflix series; upset that the Frank Underwood character painted members of Congress in a bad light by [SPOILER ALERT] cheating on his wife in the first season. (Congress’s reputation can get worse?)

“I watched the first couple of episodes until [Frank Underwood] cheated on his wife with that reporter. It turned my stomach so much that I just couldn’t watch it anymore,” Ryan said. “His behavior was so reprehensible, and it hit too close to home because he was a House member, that it just bothered me too much. And what I thought is, it makes us all look like we’re like that.”

Coincidentally, on the same day Ryan’s inner TV critic was revealed, the Clinton Foundation released a Happy Birthday video for former president Bill Clinton that featured Kevin Spacey as Underwood posing as Bill Clinton (follow?) chatting by phone with Hillary Clinton about what to get the former president as a gift.

“I told you this is a very personal decision that I will make when I’m ready,” Hillary Clinton tells Spacey as Underwood as Clinton. (Get it? That was a “Will she run for president?” joke.)


Aside from Ryan, few DC politicians have criticized “House of Cards” on the record. Most appear to love the drama, the Washington intrigue and drawing parallels with their colleagues. The Obamas are big fans. And as seen in the video above, so are the Clintons. In an interview with People magazine this year, the former secretary of state described how much she enjoyed watching the show with her husband:

“Oh, that was good, too,” she said, describing a little self-consciously how she and her husband Bill “totally binge-watched” the first season of House of Cards. Part of the appeal, she explained, was “a little bit of the, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe we can just sit here and do this’ and ‘We’re only going to watch one episode, oh, let’s watch another. Okay, well, we have time, we’re not going anywhere, let’s watch a third.’ I know that sounds kind of devoid of content.”

There are other congressional naysayers. Barney Frank, a former House representative for Massachusetts, lambasted the show in his local newspaper, arguing that its portrayal of Washington and politicians is inaccurate, unfair and fuels distrust of the democratic progress.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) told Politico last year that he was a fan of the show but found an episode about a peach-shaped water tower “hokey.” In the same article, then-House Majority whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned fans not to “believe what you see in there.” Rep Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), on the other hand, has said there are parallels between Underwood and actual congressmen. “He is a caricature, but there are folks who are back there whose desire is just to continue to be there,” he said.

We do know one prominent Washingtonian who surprisingly has a strong disdain for “House of Cards.” The Washington Post’s very own Chris Cillizza hates the show.

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.
Sebastian Payne is a national reporter with The Washington Post. He is the Post’s 35th Laurence Stern fellow.

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