Citigroup pulls Ben Stein speech after hearing he made sexist jokes

Laura Donovan Contributor
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Citigroup scrapped a keynote speech by political commentator/actor Ben Stein after they received a complaint that he made sexist jokes about women at a private-equity conference in Texas earlier this year. The decision was made after a woman emailed vice chairman of Global Banking Peter Orszag (who was President Obama’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget) and said Stein had been “offensive and irresponsible” at a March 2 Dallas event, reports Bloomberg.

The financial services company asked Stein to speak at their upcoming New York event for pension and endowment funds. “We have decided to present the conference without Mr. Stein’s participation,” said Danielle Romero-Apsilos, a spokeswoman for the bank. In an interview, Stein said his jokes were mischaracterized and that the business didn’t give him a phone call before canceling his appearance.

“I’ve been in this speaking-gig business for a number of years, I’ve told these jokes before, and I have never gotten one syllable of complaint,” Stein said. “I don’t think any woman in the world would call me a misogynist. For this woman to say this is just fantasy…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.”

“I am delighted that Citi has taken this action,” said Lynda Villarreal, the woman who filed a complaint against Stein. “It shows their corporate leadership and respect for women in the financial industry as well as their clients.”

Citigroup, which was accused in a gender-discrimination lawsuit last year of being an “outdated boys club,” scrubbed the Stein’s speech Tuesday to avoid being tied to any disturbing remarks, a source told Bloomberg.