Conservative Movement Divided on Two Fronts Over AIG

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brandon Hersh (202) 471-3205
bhersh@mediamatters.org

Conservative Movement Divided on Two Fronts Over AIG

WASHINGTON - To: Interested Parties

From: Jessica Levin, Media
Matters for America

Re: Conservative
movement divided on two fronts over AIG

Date: Thursday, March 19, 2009

As Media Matters for America
has recently documented, there is an emerging split between conservatives on
Capitol Hill and conservatives in the media over American International Group's
(AIG) employee bonus packages. The
Washington Post
's Greg Sargent noted this schism
yesterday:

Mitch
McConnell recently blasted AIG's bonuses as an "outrage."
John Boehner said that the "American people are rightly outraged."
And Eric Cantor bemoaned the "stunning lack of accountability" on
AIG's part. But increasingly, leading conservative media figures are
moving in a different direction: Defending AIG.

Media
Matters
has noted several examples
of conservative media figures defending AIG:

On
the March 17 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Limbaugh
declared, "A lynch mob is expanding: the peasants with their pitchforks
surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads. Death threats
are pouring in. All of this being ginned up by the Obama administration."
Later Limbaugh claimed, "This $500,000 limit on executive pay -- let me
tell you why it won't work. New York
City will die. New
York City needs a whole bunch of people being paid a
whole lot of money, so they can tax their butts off, so that the city can
maintain its stupid streets, potholes, and welfare state. Without the super
wealthy in New York,
it's over. ... This -- it's just a populist ruse. It's just designed to people
go, 'Yeah, yeah!' "

On
the March 17 edition of his syndicated radio show, Hannity aired Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) statement that if
AIG employees do not voluntarily return their bonuses, "we plan to virtually
tax all of it. ... [W]e'll put in place a new law that will allow us to tax
these bonuses at a very high rate." Hannity then stated: "
'Tax all of it.' In other words, Chucky is coming for you. The government is
coming to get your money." Hannity later added: "Whether you like the
AIG bonuses or not, think about this: They're going to make a law, and they're
going to tax every single penny of it, virtually all of it. In other words,
we're going to just steal their money. And they're not going to be able to do a
darn thing about it, because we're the government, and if we decide we can
confiscate all of their wealth, we're gonna do it."

On
the March 18 edition of his Fox News show, Beck stated that by proposing to
recoup the AIG bonuses, Congress is not "trying to solve this
problem" but rather trying to "channel the outrage away from their
roles" and "direct it toward the faceless bonus recipients at
AIG." After stating that he doesn't "like the idea of failed
businesses paying bonuses," Beck stated: "But what I really, really
don't like here is the idea that we are willing to give in to mob rule, and
that's what this is." He added: "I mean, the only thing they haven't
said is, 'Bring out the monster.' It's mob rule. They are attempting to void
legally biding contracts."

In addition, while congressional Republicans are now
criticizing Democrats over a provision in the stimulus bill restricting the
ability of companies receiving federal funds to pay employee bonuses in the
future -- with Republicans saying that Democrats should have ensured the
restrictions applied retroactively --
several Republican senators previously took a different position on government involvement in employee compensation. But
media have given little attention to this inconsistency. For example, in
reporting on the NRSC's attack on congressional Democrats, Time's Jay Newton-Small ignored several recent examples of
Republicans -- documented by The
Huffington Post
--
decrying government intervention in executive compensation:

  • Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL)

"What
executives have done is troubling, but it's equally troubling to have
government telling shareholders how much they can pay the executives."

  • Sen.
    Jim DeMint (R-SC)

"If you accept the fact that the government
should be setting pay scales in America,
then it's hard not to go after these exorbitant salaries. But I think it's a
sad day in America
when the government starts setting pay, no matter how outlandish they
are."

  • Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT)

"Some of
the things some of these bank executives have been doing demonstrates they have
a tin ear. At the same time, I'm generally troubled by wage and price control,
no matter how logical it may appear."

  • Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)

"Because of their excesses, very bad things begin
to happen, like the United
States government telling a company what it
can pay its employees. That's not a good thing in America."

  • Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO)

"If
Congress can run a financial institution, it belies everything I've seen in
this body. Government does not do a good job running private
institutions."

For more
information on the media's coverage of the AIG bonuses, please visit: www.mediamatters.org

###

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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