Fox News host takes on Blumenthal over AIG bonuses controversy

By John O'Brien | Mar 31, 2009


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Fox News host Glenn Beck called Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal "an insult to George Washington" during an interview Monday on his show.

The remark came as Beck and Blumenthal were wrapped up an intense debate over the Democrat's role in blocking the executive bonuses recently handed out by troubled financial services provider American International Group that have attracted controversy.

Blumenthal and New York's Andrew Cuomo are two state attorneys general who have made headlines while criticizing the bonuses.

Beck repeatedly asked what law AIG was breaking by handing out the retention bonuses, and Blumenthal responded by saying it is "against public policy and it is unsanctioned by law." Eventually, Blumenthal said it was not against the law but is rather "un-required."

"Then you know what you should do? You should enforce the law. You shouldn't use your bully pulpit to gain popularity," Beck said. "Look, you're more popular than I'll ever be on this issue. This is not me having you on and doing this to you. It does not make me popular or a favorite.
"Everyone is on your side on this issue. But it is not your place to do anything other than enforce the law. If you would like to change the law, then you can..."

AIG received more than $170 billion in taxpayer money in the recent bailout of several financial institutions. Its subsidiary, AIG Financial Products, is based in Connecticut and was handing out the bonuses.

Blumenthal said the $165 million worth of bonuses were not wages under the Connecticut Wage Protection statute, and called it a "joke of a justification to squander" taxpayer money.

Several of AIG's executives have agreed to return their bonuses.

Blumenthal pointed out that he never promised to take legal action against the bonuses. He has urged the Federal Reserve to do so.

"(T)hese funds belong to us taxpayers," Blumenthal told Beck, to which Beck responded, "No, no, sir. Look, you know what you have done? You know what you've done? You are an insult to George Washington, sir. George Washington made it very clear that we are respecters of laws, not of men.

"For your own political gain, you have decided to go after these people at AIG because it is a popular thing. And while I may agree with you that it is obscene, I would like to know, sir, not what's right as a rule of thumb, not what makes us feel good. You, sir, are to protect people and to stand for the law in Connecticut.

"So, again, I ask you, sir, what law gave you the right to go after them? What law did they break?"

Blumenthal answered, "Well, I think you're wrong in the basic premise. We're not going after any individual. We're asking the United States... to ask that this money be returned or pursue it, because they were undeserving of it."

A transcript of the argument can be seen here.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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