*The head of insurer American International Group (AIG) apologized for a “poor choice of words” on Tuesday after he was blasted for equating criticism of banker bonuses with the lynching of African-Americans in the Deep South.
Outrage over bonuses paid to bankers “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that – sort of like what we did in the Deep South decades ago. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong,” Chief Executive Bob Benmosche was quoted as saying in an interview in The Wall Street Journal.
His words didn’t go over well.
“Simply outrageous. AIG should disavow the statement now,” tweeted Benjamin Lawsky, the superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, called for Benmosche to resign.
“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,” Cummings said in a statement.
Benmosche later apologized for the remarks.
“It was a poor choice of words. I never meant to offend anyone by it,” Benmosche said in a statement.
Government officials and activists criticized banks and other financial institutions that gave out huge bonuses during the financial crisis, despite many of the banks’ own roles in causing the economic meltdown beginning in 2008.
In contrast, thousands of African-Americans, primarily in the South, were beaten, hanged and killed in the 19th and 20th centuries by racist mobs.