Insurance group, Miss. attorney general in spat over 'Nazi' remark

Associated Press
April 18, 2006

JACKSON, Miss._A national insurance industry group is criticizing Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood for his statements knocking insurers' denial of Hurricane Katrina claims, and Hood is standing by what he said.

During a luncheon speech in Jackson last week, Hood said insurance companies are "in lockstep like Nazis locking arms, coming at those people down there on the coast."

Marc Racicot, president of the American Insurance Association, said in a letter to Hood on Tuesday that Katrina was "a terrible tragedy" for Mississippi.

"However, comparing the insurance response to this unprecedented natural disaster to the Holocaust is appalling," Racicot wrote in the letter, which the association distributed in a news release.

"Also appalling is your comparison of tens of thousands of insurance company representatives who have been working tirelessly to help settle Hurricane Katrina claims to Nazis," Racicot, a former Republican National Committee Chairman, wrote to Hood. "Your inflammatory and scurrilous rhetoric in that regard is stunningly careless and inappropriate."

Hood, a Democrat, responded in a prepared statement Tuesday: "I did not equate the insurance companies with Nazis. I said that they took their marching orders in lockstep like Nazis. I am not going to get into a war of words. If they are so confident in their policies, why don't they quit with the delay tactics and meet me in court?"

The first-term attorney general has a lawsuit pending in state court over questions about what the insurance companies are obligated to pay.

"I think what insurance companies hope, they can bob and weave and drag it out and our taxpayer money will hit the ground down there and the pressure will be let off, and they can walk away," Hood said this past Thursday at a luncheon sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University's John C. Stennis Institute of Government.

Racicot is a former governor and attorney general of Montana.

"Words have power," Racicot wrote to Hood. "It is our sincere hope that, in the future, you will refrain from such incendiary comments, and instead focus on working through the many challenges facing those of us who are deeply committed to rebuilding the Gulf Coast."

Hood filed a lawsuit Sept. 15 against five major insurers, including Allstate and State Farm, for refusing to cover damage caused by storm surge. Hood has said that the storm surge during Katrina caused an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion in Mississippi.

Insurers have said many policies do not cover damage covered by wind-driven water and contracts can't be changed after a disaster to force the coverage.

The attorney general's lawsuit was transferred from Hinds County Chancery Court to federal court a day after he filed it. On March 7, a federal judge sent the case back to state court.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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