Fannie Mae's quest for new markets has led this year to reverse mortgage programs, higher loan limits, minority programs, and lesser-quality mortgages.

Now, it seems, the search has taken the agency into the cartoon city of Springfield-home to the quintessentially dysfunctional Homer Simpson clan. And there, the secondary market agency has an even bigger role in fostering homeownership than in the real world: It "backs the banks."

Doh!

The Fannie Mae reference in a recently aired episode of the Fox television series, "The Simpsons," came in a song that ticked off the components of the homebuying process. Homer's blue-haired wife, Marge, was singing the song with offspring Bart and Lisa as part of her training for a real estate license.

Actually, it's the deposit insurance funds and ultimately the taxpayers who back the banks. Fannie Mae merely pumps liquidity into the system by purchasing home loans.

But Fannie Mae spokesman Gene Eisman, whose job is to head off inaccurate or muddled notions of the big company's role, let this one slide. "It's great to receive that kind of attention," he said. "They gave a nod to Fannie Mae for the help it supplies."

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