Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley has issued a blanket apology this afternoon for remarks he made about Republican Senator Chuck Grassley during a private fundraiser in Texas.
Braley is the only Democrat running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat. A just-released video shows Braley talking to a group of trial lawyers at a fundraiser in Texas, telling the crowd that if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate this November that Grassley is likely to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — and Braley described Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”
Braley has issued a written apology, about three hours after the media was notified the video had been posted online.
“I apologize to Senator Grassley and anyone I may have offended. I respect Senator Grassley and enjoy our working relationship even though we disagree on some issues,” Braley said in the statement. “But there is a clear choice in this race between Mark Jacobs and my other opponents who support policies that are bad for Iowa farmers, and the work I’ve done hand in hand with Iowa farmers to grow Iowa’s farm economy and create good paying Iowa farm jobs.
“My parents both grew up on Iowa farms during the Great Depression. It deeply influenced who they are and who I am, and gave me a profound appreciation for what farmers do for the world. One of my grandfathers was a charter member of the Iowa Farm Bureau. I grew up in rural Iowa, doing farm jobs and working a grain elevator. I have tremendous respect for Iowa farmers and appreciate how important they are to our state, and I’m grateful to have the support of hundreds of farmers across Iowa.”
A spokesperson for Grassley issued a written statement earlier this afternoon, citing Grassley’s committee work on behalf of whistleblowers and in uncovering the illegal gun trafficking operation that’s become known as “Fast and Furious.”
“By the logic expressed on this recording a trial lawyer shouldn’t be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care. Sen. Grassley has served on the Judiciary Committee since he was first elected to the Senate, and he’s got a strong record on the committee,” Grassley’s spokesperson wrote. “..Alongside that, Sen. Grassley’s one of only two working family farmers in the United States Senate, where he brings Iowa common sense to work for ag, anti-trust, transportation, environmental, energy, trade, health care, communications, national security, and tax policy that works for all of America.”
Four of Braley’s potential GOP rivals issued written statements about Braley’s remarks, using words like “offensive”, “elitist” and “condescending”.
“Bruce Braley’s ignorant remarks are yet another reminder that he only aims to serve one group: trial lawyers nationwide; not Iowans,” Jacobs said. “To insinuate that someone like Chuck Grassley, who has served this state so honorably, is not fit to be a Committee Chair – because he is a just ‘a farmer from Iowa’ is offensive…I’ll take Senator Grassley’s commonsense over Bruce Braley’s expertise in suing people any day.”
Candidate Joni Ernst said Braley had insulted Grassley.
“Bruce Braley thinks the way to suck up to Texas trial lawyers is by bashing Iowa farmers. How out of touch with Iowa can you be? I call on Braley to immediately apologize to Senator Grassley, and every other farmer in Iowa,” Ernst said in a written statement. “…As an Iowa farm girl myself, I find it amusing that Braley thinks what Iowans need is yet another trial lawyer or outside Texas influences…what we need are simply more good old Iowa values.”
Candidate Matt Whitaker, like Braley, is a lawyer, but he criticized Braley for touting opposition to legislation that would limit damage awards in lawsuits.
“Bruce Braley apparently thinks he was sent to Washington to fight for tort reform,” Whitaker said of Braley’s remarks in Texas. “He is out of step with Iowans and his remarks about Senator Grassley are elitist and condescending. This fall, Iowans will have a choice. We can choose someone who will be a check on the last two years of the Obama administration or we can choose someone who thinks that Iowa farmers are a punch line.”
Candidate Sam Clovis also used the term “elitist” to describe the tone of Braley’s remarks.
“Maybe if Braley did a fraction of the town halls in Iowa that Chuck Grassley does, he’d know better how Iowans feel about condescending politicians,” Clovis said in a written statement. “…Bruce Braley prefers to side with trial lawyers over the economic and moral well-being of America. Bruce Braley’s votes in the U.S. House prove that he will stand for laws that are unjust and wrong for Iowans.”