In the wake of Rush Limbaugh's defense of AIG, several conservative media figures -- including Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Michelle Malkin -- have joined him in condemning criticism of the company's employee retention bonuses.
In the wake of Rush Limbaugh's defense of American International Group (AIG) on his March 16 and March 17 broadcasts, several conservative media figures -- including Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin -- have joined him in condemning criticism of the company's employee retention bonuses. In a March 18 post to his Washington Post Co. blog, Greg Sargent cited Limbaugh's and Hannity's comments in reporting that while "GOP Congressional leaders have roundly condemned AIG and its executives, as part of a strategy to position themselves as heroic defenders of the taxpayers and to paint the Obama administration as weak and ineffectual ... increasingly, leading conservative media figures are moving in a different direction: Defending AIG."
As Media Matters for America noted, on his March 17 broadcast, Rush Limbaugh -- "a great leader for conservatives" -- 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." On March 16, Limbaugh challenged a caller who opposed the bonuses. The caller said, "I do agree with [President] Obama trying to get these bonuses back from the AIG execs because, I mean, that's our money." Limbaugh replied, "Let me ask you a question. ... You have a company -- let's take AIG out of this 'cause they're so emotionally charged. Let's say that the company being bailed out is the XYZ Widget Company. ... We need them to manufacture widgets and sell widgets and so forth. So why in the world -- or how do you get to the point where you're going to bail out the company, but you don't want the employees to get paid?" Limbaugh later added: "[T]his is not just executives, but executives are employees, too. And in many of these firms, Nathan, their salaries are pretty small. They work on bonuses, via contract based on merit."
Several other conservative media figures joined Limbaugh in defense of AIG. For example:
- 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."
- Later on the March 18 edition of his Fox News show, Beck stated that "I think what these guys are doing in Washington is whipping up mob rule" and asked Malkin, "True or false?" Malkin replied, "Absolutely. Anybody who watched the horror that was the AIG hearing this morning saw the mob rule fomenting." Malkin went on to criticize Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), and Rep. Steven Lynch (D-MA) -- who she stated was "appropriately named" -- for "going after [AIG CEO] Edward Liddy and the employees of AIG, searching for names of the executives and their families for accepting these bonuses."