Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, held his first conference call with reporters today since the release of a video where he made remarks about Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.
Braley told a group of Texas lawyers at a fundraiser that if he isn’t elected to the U.S. Senate — Grassley, a farmer who never went to law school — would become chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He issued a written apology on the day the remarks were released, and also talked personally with Senator Grassley .
Braley, who is a lawyer, opened his conference call with a statement on the video. “Let me start by stating the obvious: I made a mistake. And good people who listen to my comments, people who I respect and admire were upset by what I said,” Braley said. “If my dad were still alive he’d probably be telling me not to get too big for my britches. The reason the people who know me were upset was because these remarks don’t reflect who I am and where I come from.”
Braley’s statement was six minutes long and went into detail about his family background and the work he did at various jobs growing up. The first question by a reporter asked Braley to explain what he was thinking if he was not saying that being a farmer disqualified Grassley from chairing the committee.
“I respect Senator Grassley greatly and I don’t question his qualifications. We have differences on some issues and we have different experiences in background as well as many things in common,” Braley said in reply. ” And that’s why I took the time to personally reach out to Senator Grassley, because I wanted him to hear from me personally. And I think that I made it very clear where I stood in my conversation with him.”
Braley was asked again to clarify what he meant.
“I was trying to convey that we have different life experiences and backgrounds,” Braley said.
Braley was then asked by Des Moines Register columnist Kathie Obradovich if he is concerned the issue has hurt his Senate campaign.
“I am much less concerned about the impact of my comments on my Senate campaign, Kathie, than I am on the impact of my comments on the people of Iowa. And that’s because it doesn’t reflect who I am and where I come from, and that’s why I apologized to Senator Grassley,” Braley replied.
Braley was asked to explain how his life experience was different from Grassley.
“Well, the experience that I have spending 23 years representing Iowans and trying to understand their stories and challenges so that I could be their voice and give them a chance at justice. That’s one of the significant differences that I was trying to explain,” Braley said.
Grassley is the senior U.S. Senator from Iowa, serving since 1981. Braley has borrowed a couple staples from Grassley’s past campaigns — visiting all of Iowa’s 99 counties and the using the phrase “Braley Works” in his campaign. Grassley has employed “Grassley Works” as a theme in past campaigns.
Braley also said in the video he has been fighting against tort reform for 30 years. He was asked if that statement would be a negative for him in his Senate campaign.
“As I said, I am much less worried about what will be a deficit for me in the campaign than with the reaction that the people I care about in Iowa are having to the words I spoke and that’s why I issued the apology to Senator Grassley and the apology to Iowa farmers and Iowans who may’ve been offended by what I said,” Braley said. “I continue to be somebody who believes in standing up for the ‘Bill of Rights’ and I think that is something that all Iowans share as a common value.”
Braley has touted himself in his campaign as being someone who is bipartisan and was asked if his comments about Grassley countered that claim. Braley responded that he thinks his record speaks for itself that he has been bipartisan. Braley is the only Democrat running for Iowa’s open Senate seat in 2014.
Audio: Braley conference call. 17:00.