Grassley to AIG execs: Apologize or kill yourselves

The Iowa Republican offers a novel take on the bonuses paid to employees of the company, which has received billions in taxpayer money.

Published March 17, 2009 1:30PM (EDT)

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, is definitely on board with that whole populism thing we were talking about yesterday. He might want to dial back his enthusiasm just a little bit, though.

In an interview with a Cedar Rapids radio station on Monday, Grassley lashed out at AIG executives over the hundreds of millions in bonuses the bailed-out company has paid out.

"I suggest, you know, obviously maybe they ought to be removed, but I would suggest that the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better towards them [is] if they would follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say I'm sorry and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide," the senator said. "In the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."

ABC News' Jake Tapper points out that this isn't the first time Grassley has brought up the Japanese example, though in October of last year, he was a little more forgiving, saying, "I’m not talking about going out and committing suicide as some Japanese do in these circumstances, but I am talking about scenes I’ve seen on television where in belly-up corporations the CEOs go before the board of directors, before the public, before the stockholders and bow deeply and apologize for their mismanagement."

Update: Grassley has walked back his remarks a bit. "Of course, I don't want anybody to go commit suicide, but I do want some contrition, I want some showing of remorse," he told Bloomberg TV Tuesday morning. "And obviously, I don’t want anyone to kill themselves because I don’t believe in that sort of thing. But I do believe that when you have done bad for your company, for your stockholders, and eventually for the taxpayer… you ought to say, 'I’m sorry.'"

And an AIG spokesman has responded to the senator's earlier comments, saying in a statement, "The remark is very disappointing, but AIG's employees continue to work with poise and professionalism to take care of policyholders and repay taxpayers."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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