Donny Deutsch Rants: 'We Are a Country That Is At Class Warfare Now'

During a panel discussion on Tuesday's NBC Today about philanthropist Denise Rich renouncing her U.S. citizenship to reportedly avoid paying taxes, advertising executive Donny Deutsch used the incident to proclaim: "We are a country that is at class warfare now. It is reality. And this is the kind of thing that if I'm home watching, I go, screw you, get out of my country!"

NBC chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman had a similar reaction as she denounced the ultimate sin for liberals, the wealthy not paying enough taxes: "I think this is despicable. I have no – nothing but contempt for Denise Rich trying to escape taxes....Anyone who turns down an American citizenship, It's crap....It's crap, it's absolute crap."

The lone voice of dissent on the panel was attorney Star Jones, who described Rich as "more like my sister, she's one of my best friends." Jones argued: "I can say to you that she wants to be closer to her surviving children....Her children now live in Europe and she does not primarily make her home here in the United States anymore."

Co-host Matt Lauer actually issued a warning to Deutsch and Snyderman on the topic: "Alright, what do we think about it? And be careful, because obviously it's Star's friend. But go ahead." Snyderman shot back: "I don't want to be careful. I think there are times you have to call out your friends." Deutsch agreed: "Star, she's your friend. And I respect that. Let's call it as it is. I agree with Nancy. I even agree with the word 'despicable.'"

Near the end of the contentious debate, Jones declared: "Listen, I'm not going to let you call somebody I love – who I've been supportive of, who's been supportive of me – despicable and not call you out on it." Deutsch insisted: "What she did is despicable." Jones countered: "Now you might have that opinion, but you cannot call her despicable, okay?"

As Lauer moved on to the next topic, Snyderman got it a parting shot: "I'll call her despicable." Jones shot back: "That's tacky."

Introducing a report earlier in the show, co-host Savannah Guthrie fretted: "And now to what appears to be a money-saving trend among some of the wealthiest people in America. But is it fair to the rest of us?"

Correspondent Andrea Mitchell used the story to promote a Democratic effort to collect taxes from wealthy individuals even after they renounce their citizenship: "Rich is among 1,800 Americans last year who renounced their citizenship....New York Senator Chuck Schumer sees a tax dodge....Schumer has legislation to penalize people like Rich."

Mitchell added: "Denise Rich is not the only famous American who's given up her citizenship, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin became a citizen of Singapore just before the Facebook IPO. If Schumer gets his way, they will both still have to pay U.S. taxes on their riches."

Interestingly, Deutsch, Snyderman and Jones discussed Saverin renouncing his citizenship back in May. The panel breakdown was the same, Jones defended Saverin's decision while Snyderman ripped him as a "weasel" and Deutsch lamented that "the entire corporate system" was at fault.

The NBC coverage tied Rich to her ex-husband, tax fraud fugitive Marc Rich, as well as to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Mitchell explained: "Denise Rich contributed to the Clinton campaigns. And just before Bill Clinton left office, he caused a political storm pardoning her former husband, fugitive financier Marc Rich, who fled prosecution for tax fraud in 1983."

During the panel, Lauer similarly noted: "Denise Rich, who is a very popular songwriter, a Grammy winner, a socialite, a philanthropist and major Democratic fundraiser...Let's remind people that it was an American president, Bill Clinton – again, she's a very big Democratic fundraiser – it was an American President Bill Clinton who pardoned her husband Marc."


Here is a full transcript of the July 10 panel discussion:

8:10AM ET

MATT LAUER: We're back now at 8:10 with Today's Professionals, Star Jones, Donny Deutsch, and Dr. Nancy Snyderman are here to chime in on the hottest headlines of the morning. Good morning to everybody. Good to see you.

NANCY SNYDERMAN: Hey, Matt.

DONNY DEUTSCH: Hi, Matt.

LAUER: Let's start with a story that's in the papers today. Denise Rich, who is a very popular songwriter, a Grammy winner, a socialite, a philanthropist and major Democratic fundraiser, is apparently giving up her U.S. citizenship. She'll retain her Austrian citizenship because her father was born in Austria. And according to a lot of the reports, the reason she's doing this is to save millions of dollars in taxes here in the United States. Star, I know this story puts you in an odd position because you and Denise Rich are very good friends.

STAR JONES: She's more like my sister, she's one of my best friends.

LAUER: Alright, but what do we think about what she's doing? Do you want to start?

JONES: Well, I mean, I obviously, I've spoken to her about this. And I don't want to – I can't tell you anything legal, but I can say to you that she wants to be closer to her surviving children. You know she lost one of her daughters to cancer in her 20s. And-

DEUTSCH: So why does it have to – why can't she do that without changing citizenship?

JONES: Because their kids now live in Europe. Her children now live in Europe and she does not primarily make her home here in the United States anymore.

LAUER: So you don't think she's doing this for tax reasons, at all, to save money?

JONES: No, I think that's a by-product and I think that works, but I know that's not the main reason.

LAUER: Alright, what do we think about it? And be careful, because obviously it's Star's friend. But go ahead.

SNYDERMAN: I don't want to be careful. I think there are times you have to call out your friends. And I think this is despicable. I have no – nothing but contempt for Denise Rich trying to escape taxes.

JONES: I don't think she's trying to escape.

SNYDERMAN: Anyone who turns down an American citizenship, It's crap.

JONES: Well, I do agree that citizenship is...

SNYDERMAN: It's crap, it's absolute crap.

JONES: ...it's one of my assets.

LAUER: Right.

JONES: But she's – that's now how she feels about it. Sorry.

DEUTSCH: Star, Star, she's your friend.

JONES: Yes she is.

DEUTSCH: And I respect that. Let's call it as it is. I agree with Nancy. I even agree with the word "despicable."

JONES: I disagree.

DEUTSCH: Can I finish? We are a country that is at class warfare now. It is reality.

SNYDERMAN: Absolutely.

DEUTSCH: And this is the kind of thing that if I'm home watching...

JONES: You're pissed off.

DEUTSCH: I go, screw you, get out of my country!

LAUER: Let's add one other element. Let's remind people that it was an American president, Bill Clinton – again, she's a very big Democratic fundraiser – it was an American President Bill Clinton who pardoned her husband Marc...

JONES: Ex-husband.

LAUER: ...her ex-husband...

SNYDERMAN: A major error on Clinton's part.

LAUER: ...when he was on the run for tax evasion. So this country and its leaders have been very good to her.

JONES: Well this – well, she's also been very good to this country.

DEUTSCH: Star-

JONES: Listen, I'm not going to let you call somebody I love – who I've been supportive of, who's been supportive of me – despicable and not call you out on it.

DEUTSCH: What she did, what she did-

SNYDERMAN: Star-

JONES: No, she's not a despicable person.

DEUTSCH: First of all, I know her also. What she did is despicable. I'm a U.S. citizen.

JONES: Now you might have that opinion, but you cannot call her despicable, okay?

DEUTSCH: Alright, what she did is despicable.

JONES: Fair enough.

LAUER: Alright, alright. Two opinions in this.

SNYDERMAN: I'll call her despicable.

JONES: That's tacky.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC