Code Pink makes a splash in AIG chief Liddy's hearing
OK, so we're sitting here watching AIG honcho Edward Liddy, cool as a cucumber, telling Congress that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke knew all about those bonuses and should have kept the Treasury Department and perhaps Congress in the loop, because the Fed was monitoring AIG's meetings, including compensation meetings.
Lawmakers on the House Financial Services subcommittee seem appropriately irritated.
Just then, we noticed a rather familiar looking face sitting right behind Liddy's left shoulder. Her tell-tale hot pink T-shirt gave her away: It was Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women's antiwar group Code Pink. Benjamin is a veteran event disrupter.
Last fall, for instance, at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., we observed Ms. Benjamin step onto a hotel stage to interrupt Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, who was just about to bestow a lifetime achievement award on Sarah Palin for her opposition to abortion. (Palin, who had just been named John McCain's running mate, was not present; we know now that she was off shopping.)
We don't remember what, exactly, Ms. Benjamin's sign said, or what she chanted (it was a pro-abortion rights, anti-war message to be sure). In any case, Benjamin was hustled out of the room to thunderous applause and a rousing rendition of "God Bless America" was sung in order to drown her out.
Would Benjamin dare interrupt this hearing? We watched and waited. And, in a few minutes, the very stern looking Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Kansas, subcommittee chairman, answered our question. Speaking over the head of Liddy, Kanjorski said:
I think you've tried my patience. Now the pink ladies, the signs are either going to be removed from the room or you are going to be removed from the room before I recognize another speaker. Now do you wish to remain in the room? Those of you with signs, are you going to surrender those signs so they can be held for you later on? Or do you want to be removed from the room? Officers, take the signs. Now if I see any more signs you are going to be physically removed from this room.
About half a dozen pink T-shirt clad women handed over their signs.
With that, Kanjorski recognized Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the Finance Committee. "Thank you, Mr. Chairman," said Frank. "Given your method of dealing with this, it's a good thing no one was wearing a T-shirt with a slogan."
Frank must have been referring to his fellow representatives, because when Benjamin stood up to hand over her sign, her T-shirt read: "AIG, GIVE US OUR $ BACK."
-- Robin Abcarian
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Photo: Getty Images