Montour Spawns White House Aide Who Jabbed Carter

By Puko, Tim | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 2, 2007 | Go to article overview

Montour Spawns White House Aide Who Jabbed Carter


Puko, Tim, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


People around the world recently got an introduction to White House spokesman Tony Fratto when he described former President Jimmy Carter as "increasingly irrelevant."

"Neither of us really knows if that was something he said or if there was a lot of consulting with close advisers," said Bob Fratto, of Robinson, one of Tony Fratto's two brothers. "But it sounds like Tony."

Tony Fratto's strong retort came after Carter declared the Bush administration "has been the worst in history."

"Actually, I thought the original attack was unprecedented, so maybe it called for an unprecedented reaction," said Fratto, 40, a deputy assistant to the president and deputy press secretary. "From that perspective, I think it deserved a response, and that was my judgment. You don't notice 95 percent of what I say, most people don't notice it. I'm not looking for smack-down sort of comments. That's not what I do."

Long before Tony Fratto began confronting the White House press corps, he honed his debating skills around the family tables in Stowe and Robinson.

The Fratto family made world politics and economics its dinnertime discussion points.

"He has such wonderful credentials that he could be making a lot of money. But he has chosen this path," said Keith Schmidt, a close friend and Republican political operative who served with Fratto on Montour High School's student council.

In May, that path led him to handling some of the president's biggest public relations crises, including controversy about outgoing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"He's pretty much intoxicated with the ability to have an influence," said Schmidt, a former aide to Sen. Rick Santorum, R- Penn Hills. "If you grow up loving politics and end up at the White House, you're pretty much at the top of the food chain."

The Fratto family started at the bottom in Stowe.

Both parents are Italian immigrants. John Fratto came to the United States with nothing, said his son Ray Fratto, of Point Breeze. The family enjoys telling people that John always read the newspaper a day late, after someone else threw it out.

In lieu of toys, John Fratto and his wife, Josephine, gave their four children encyclopedias and a science library. …

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