And, oddly, former White House budget guru Peter Orszag is responsible
Odious Nixon speechwriter and shameless pitchman Ben Stein has been spending the last few years using up all the goodwill he accrued by being funny in some 1980s films and television shows, just by being his essentially unprincipled and disingenuous self. So it is no surprise that Stein made a series of bad sexist jokes at some sort of corporate conference where he’d been paid to show up and be famous for an hour. What is a surprise, a pleasant one, is that his stupid jokes cost him another corporate speaking gig — thanks to former White House budget director Peter Orszag, who has finally done something good with his life.
For some reason Stein was booked to give the keynote speech at a forthcoming Citigroup event. A woman who heard Stein’s routine at the earlier conference sent her complaint to Citigroup vice chairman Orszag, who recently hopped from the executive branch of the federal government to the megabank branch. Orszag forwarded her complaint along, and then Mr. Stein’s gig got canceled. The system works! (The fact that Citi was recently embroiled in a gender-discrimination suit might’ve helped it come to its decision.)
Stein will show up anywhere and say anything if someone is willing to pay him — his shilling for a predatory and deceptive credit score operation cost him his gig as a business columnist at the New York Times — so the only question is why people are willing to pay him. (Oh, right: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”) What does Stein have to offer to Citigroup, besides ancient Republican economic talking points and even older “Truly Tasteless Jokes”? Surely adult professionals working for Citigroup know a great deal more about pensions and endowment funds than a commercial actor and sometime law professor who seems to spend most of his energies on risible defenses of Nixon and outlandish attacks on Darwinism.
Even in fields where Stein has some expertise, you can’t trust a word he says. Ben Stein is a compulsive, shameless liar — he seems, in fact, to be unable to discern the difference between objective facts and politically expedient falsehoods, as demonstrated by his long-forgotten libeling of Joan Rivers, of all people — who seems to relish arguing ridiculous positions he can’t possibly agree with (how many Ivy-educated Jewish creationists do you know?). That is called trolling, by the way. Ben Stein is a troll.
Why would any organization at all give this man $45,000 and first-class airfare to address them? Anyone? Anyone?
Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon.