Politics

Grassley Accuses AIG of Sucking 'Tit' of Taxpayer But Tones Down Criticism

OK, so Sen. Charles Grassley doesn't really want AIG executives who accept lavish bonuses to "commit suicide," as he suggested in an interview Monday. He walked that order back a few steps on Tuesday.

But the Iowa Republican had some other choice words for the bailed-out insurance giant. 

"From my standpoint, it's irresponsible for corporations to give bonuses at this time when they're sucking the tit of the taxpayer," Grassley explained. 

Grassley continued to express his displeasure with the company that is distributing $165 million in bonuses over lawmakers' objections. He said executives should not be rewarded for running their corporation into the ground.

Still, he toned down his remarks from the day before, when he made a reference to Japanese culture and said executives accepting the money should either "resign or go commit suicide."

He clarified Tuesday on FOX News that he was referring more to the practice of Japanese business leaders to take responsibility for failing companies. 

"It would make me feel a lot better if our corporate structure would adopt that culture from Japan for the reason that I have not heard anybody apologize for running the corporation ... into the ground, and AIG's just one example of it," Grassley said. 

He said he's made that point a number of times and, "I don't know why it caught on yesterday." 

Grassley first clarified his "suicide" comment in a morning conference call Tuesday. 

"What I'm expressing here obviously is not that I want people to commit suicide. That's not my notion," Grassley said Tuesday. "But I do feel very strongly that we have not had statements of apology, statements of remorse, statements of contrition on the part of CEOs of manufacturing companies or banks or financial services or insurance companies that are asking for bailouts." 

Grassley's initial comments came during an interview Monday with Cedar Rapids radio station WMT. 

"I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say 'I'm sorry,' and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide," he said at the time. 

Japanese executives often take responsibility for scandals within their companies by issuing public apologies on camera and stepping down. It is rare, however, that business executives have gone so far as to take their lives, though in feudal Japan, ritual suicide was considered an honorable death under the samurai warrior ethic. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.