AIG CEO apologizes for comparing critics to Jim Crow

Robert Benmosche walks back an earlier statement comparing AIG's critics to Jim Crow-era lynch mobs

Published September 24, 2013 9:53PM (EDT)

 (Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of insurance giant AIG, apologized Tuesday for comparing the public outcry against bankers to Jim Crow-era lynch mobs.

Benmosche, who said that critics of the large bonuses given out to some AIG employees during the worst days of the Great Recession intended “to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses,” claimed he did not mean to offend when he said the public outrage was “sort of like what we did in the Deep South” and was “just as bad and just as wrong.”

From the Wall Street Journal:

“It was a poor choice of words. I never meant to offend anyone by it,” [Benmosche] said in a statement.

The statement came amid mounting criticism in social media and from some regulators about Mr. Benmosche’s remarks, which were made in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s simply outrageous. AIG should disavow the statement,” said Benjamin M. Lawsky, New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services. [...]

In Washington, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D., Md.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called Tuesday afternoon for Mr. Benmosche’s resignation. “As the leading critic of AIG’s lavish spending before and after its taxpayer funded bailout — and as the son of sharecroppers who actually experienced lynchings in their communities — I find it unbelievably appalling that Mr. Benmosche equates the violent repression of the African American people with congressional efforts to prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars.”

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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