Ben Stein is a lawyer, a former Nixon speechwriter, a sarcastic Obama appreciator and, yes, Ferris Bueller attendance taker. But that's no match for a woman who felt his jokes at a Dallas private equity conference were sexist—and therefore demanded that Citigroup ditch Stein as keynote speaker for the banking giant's conference. And guess what—Citigroup agreed, "We have decided to present the conference without Mr. Stein’s participation." Yeah, probably doesn't help to have possibly sexist jokes dropped while Citigroup is dealing with a gender discrimination lawsuit.
According to Bloomberg News, Villareal, a Dallas bank executive, contacted former White House budget director and current Citi vice chairman Peter Orszag about Stein's jokes.
One joke was about a wealthy man, his wife and his mistress, she said.
Another involved a female airline passenger who, realizing the flight is about to crash, takes off her clothes and asks if there is a man aboard who will “make me feel like a woman,” according to Villarreal’s e-mail, which was also sent to Bloomberg News. A cowboy in a hat removes his shirt, hands it to the woman, tells her to iron it and fetch him a beer.
Villarreal said the jokes she sent to Citigroup were versions found on the Internet based on her recollection of what Stein said.
Orszag forwarded the email to the event's organizers, who quickly decided to lose Stein.
Stein told Bloomberg News "that the joke targeted the man, not the woman, and that in his Dallas telling the woman didn’t remove clothing," explaining, "It’s usually a joke understood to be making fun of a kind of cloddish, dopey guy. When I was finished with this speech, dozens of women in the room came up to me and wanted their pictures taken with me, wanted autographs from me. Dozens of them. I got fan mail from women who had been at the group saying how much they liked the speech." And he added, "Every one of those jokes are thoroughly vetted with my wife... I don’t think any woman in the world would call me a misogynist. For this woman to say this is just fantasy."
The speaking agency that represents Stein says that he usually gets $45,000 per engagement (plus first class airfare) and claims he'll still be paid for the Citi speech. If this is a sample of his humor, no wonder Citigroup needed a bailout.