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AOL distressed babies comment sparks backlash: AOL chief rescinds his words

Distressed babies comment from AOL chief causes outrage. He sends apology out in memo.
Distressed babies comment from AOL chief causes outrage. He sends apology out in memo.
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The AOL chief apologized for the distressed babies comment he made when discussing a change on a 401 K policy. Tim Armstrong was defending the idea of "tweaking" the employee's 401 K to offset some of the healthcare costs and when doing so he pulled from his hat two examples.

According to Bloomberg Technology News on Feb. 10, it was the examples he used that enraged folks. He talked about two employees' pregnancies that resulted in "distressed babies" costing $1 million each in medical expenses.

The outrage caused Armstrong, who has a reputation for causing friction in the workplace, to reverse his decision in a memo sent to the employees. Armstrong wrote:

“We heard you on this topic. I made a mistake and I apologize for my comments.”

He sent another memo of apology back in August after firing an employee in front of a room full of people with many more listening in on the other end of a conference call.

All were privy to Armstrong's hasty decision which caused embarrassment for the fired employee. He was also sued for his alleged discrimination of an employee pregnant with quadruplets when he worked for Google.

The mother of one of those "distressed babies" wrote an essay that was published on Slate.com regarding Armstrong's comment. Deanna Fei wrote:

"The hardest thing to bear has been the whiff of judgment in Armstrong’s statement, as if we selfishly gobbled up an obscenely large slice of the collective health care pie. We experienced exactly the kind of unforeseeable, unpreventable medical crisis that any health plan is supposed to cover. Isn’t that the whole point of health insurance?”