Bay Area congressmembers call Safeway lawyer’s joke ‘sexist’

What’s good for Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is apparently not good for corporate lawyers.

A group of Bay Area congressmembers sent a stern letter to Pleasanton-based Safeway CEO Steve Burd admonishing the grocery giant for a joke its top lawyer reportedly made at the expense of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi during a May 15 stockholder meeting.

General Counsel Robert Gordon reportedly told a joke involving the Secretary of State and the House Minority Speaker from San Francisco, pigs and the Secret Service. Gosh, it already sounds funny. (Read the full narrative below.)

Lighten up, people.

If members of Congress start writing to every business organization where a national politician was the butt of a joke, they’ll be busier than a genuine Arkansas razorback hog farmer at feeding time.

Here’s the letter:

Mr. Steve Burd

President and CEO

Safeway Inc.

5918 Stoneridge Mall Road

Pleasanton, CA 94588

 By Fax (925) 467-3230

 Dear Mr. President,

 We are writing to express our strong disapproval of inappropriate comments reportedly made by Safeway General Counsel Robert Gordon at Safeway’s May 15 shareholder meeting. We are deeply disappointed by these comments and believe Safeway must take corrective steps immediately.

According to an audio recording reportedly taken from the shareholder meeting, General Counsel Gordon inappropriately used House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the butt of his joke, as follows:

You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter. The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, “Nice pigs, sir.”And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” And the Secret Service agent said, “Excellent trade, sir.”

Poking fun at politicians is part of our culture, and TV comedians carry this out nightly. But sexist jokes told by a top executive of a Fortune 500 company to an international audience are completely inappropriate and demonstrate a shocking lack of respect, not only for two of the most important and respected people in our country but for all women.

Safeway owes an apology to Secretary Clinton, Leader Pelosi, and the country. It is up to the Safeway board to decide what action to take against its general counsel for his comments but let there be no doubt as to our strong disapproval and deep disappointment in your company for what he said.


Reps. George Miller, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Thompson, Lynn Woolsey, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Doris Matsui, Barbara Lee, and Mike Honda


Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • Sophia

    Reps. George Miller, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Thompson, Lynn Woolsey, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Doris Matsui, Barbara Lee, and Mike Honda have made themselves the butt of jokes by complaining about this.

  • BJD

    I wish our democrat elected officials were too busy fixing the problems this country faces to worry about some lawyers joke.

  • Bubba

    Guy walks in a bar looks at the tv and sees Hillary making a speech. Says bar keep give me a beer, he downs it. Looks back at the tv and sees Hillary, give me another beer, downs it, looks up at the tv and says,” Hillary is a horses A#@. The guy next to him slams him in the face, guy hits the ground. A couple of minutes later he is getting the cob webs out of his head and says,” I did not know this was Hillary country” The guy replies forcefully,” It’s not, it is Horse Country!!!

  • Wendy Lack

    Whatever happened to taking things in stride and keeping a sense of humor about politics?

    Sheesh. What a silly much ado about nothing.

    There’s plenty of real problems to get riled up about . . . getting your dander up about such trivial matters is lame beyond words.

  • FUBO

    The joke was originally about Clinton getting off the plane with 1 pig for Hillary, same punchline.

    More important, why don’t these Dems kill themselves for putting a moron or enemy of America in the WH. Almost 4 full years AND NO BUDGET.

    These dems are lucky American doesn’t FEED THEM TO THE HOGS.

    PS – Safeway has a bigger problem. They fired an employee who stopped some scumbag (probably a Dem) from beating his pregnant wife.

    Safeway is about to get hit with a national boycott that will send their stock tumbling if they don’t reinstate that young man.

  • Yoda

    FUBO, the first two letters of your handle at you bud.

    You can go back to your Rush Limbaugh show and your miserable existence now.

  • JohnW

    Agree with Wendy Lack that it’s a bit silly to make a federal case out of this. However, if I were Steve Burd, I’d probably put a muzzle on Mr. Gordon and tell him to stick to legal stuff. If you’re representing a Fortune 500 company at something as formal as a shareholders’ meeting, you stay away from jokes about politics, religion, ethnic, gay or whatever. It’s slam dunk that you’re going to offend some people you don’t want to offend — like at least some of your shareholders in attendance, some of your customers (especially when, in this case, the majority of your customers are women, and many of them Hillary and Pelosi supporters at that) and your employees (at least half of them female and many of them Hillary fans). In his choice of jokes, Mr. Gordon’s political leanings are rather obvious. Does he think that all of his shareholders’s in attendance share his views? As Forrest Gump might say, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

  • Bubba

    Looks like Democrats are just stuck on stupid

  • Liz

    I think the joke was insulting to pigs!

  • Wendy Lack

    @ John W:

    Agreed. Unprofessional conduct does not reflect well on the individual or the organization s/he represents.

    Love the Forrest Gump quote . . . the shoe fits.

  • Phil C

    Safeway owes an apology to the country??? What the heck are these politicians thinking? I can’t believe people like this are representing us in the bay area. Please go worry about important things like the economy instead of demanding apologies from corporations for misinterpreted and misunderstood punch lines.

    Argh. Let me make a note of which politicians signed this waste of taxpayer time and paper so I can remember to never vote for them again.

  • Elwood

    Good news, bad news. Bad news first:

    Through the miracle of redistricting, once again the illustrious George Miller is my congressman.

    Good news: Once again I can have the pleasure of voting anyone other than Georgie Porgie, the 38 year incumbent.

  • Truthclubber

    I’m so glad Elwood doesn’t live in my congressional district — living in the same state is heartburn enough.

    According to RealClearPolitics.com’s latest polling and electoral map, we have Obama at 322 EVs vs Romney at 206; to compare and contrast, we had Obama at 359 EVs vs McCain at 179 — so it looks likely that we will have a “Kenyan” in the White House for another four years.

  • JohnW

    Not that it’s relevant to the matter of the stupid Safeway legal counsel, but methinks that reading of the RealClearPolitics electoral map is wishful thinking. Obama has significantly more electoral votes in the “safe” or “leaning” columns, but Romney could run the table on the toss-up states and deny Obama the 270 he needs. Especially if the economy is dragged down by Europe or by Republicans freaking everybody out again over the debt ceiling. It’s way too early for predictions.

  • Truthclubber

    @14 —

    Way too early for some people, perhaps, but not moi — I called Clinton over Bush the elder back in the fall of 1991, and won a VERY nice dinner for that. I called Obama over McCain back in January of 2008, and even called Biden as his running mate back in May of that same year – and won quite a bit o’ coin over those.

    1) A European meltdown would be unlikely to happen on Merkel’s watch, and would also generate a strong dollar, very low interest rates here in the US, and very low gas prices — all of which help the American consumer which is 2/3 of the economy, last time I checked. You forgot the Chinese bubble in real estate that some of us are watching unfold in real time, and that will further strengthen the dollar as the yuan depreciates and cheap Wal-Mart crap gets even cheaper for middle class consumers.

    2) The GOP is going after the “Cheney sez deficits don’t matter” debt issue ONLY because they have already realized that going after Obama on jobs is NOT working, polling-wise — and using the issue of “debt” can quickly backfire into reminding voters just how much “debt” Bush Jr. saddled us with under two unfunded wars, Medicare Part D, and his wonderful “trickle down (our legs)” tax cuts, as well as the “debt” Romney and Bain saddled companies with, before it sucked the profit out of them and left them for dead — I would NOT go there if I were Mittens, no sirree, Bob!

    3) As for RealClearPolitics, I use them especially because they are biased toward the Fox side of the Fox/MSNBC spectrum, so I get as conservative a picture as I can — and let’s see what they currently (5/23/12) show in the only polls that matter here; the “battleground states” polling, thanks to the “Frankenstein” beast that is the electoral college:

    AZ: Romney by 4.0%
    CO: Obama by 6.5%
    FL: Romney by 1.4%
    IA: Obama by 4.0%
    MI: Obama by 5.3%
    MO: Romney by 3.0%
    NH: Obama by 6.4%
    NC: Romney by 2.7%
    OH: Obama by 4.6%
    VA: Obama by 3.2%
    WI: Obama by 1.6%
    PA: Was a “battleground state”, but has now swung into the “leans Obama” category — whoops!
    NV: Same as PA — double whoops!

    Plugging that into the map, I get Obama 303, Romney 235, and that’s using polling that shows Romney’s average lead per “battleground state” of 2.76% vs. “the Kenyan’s” average lead per “battleground state” of 4.51% — so ol’ Mittie’s got a LOT of table to run, methinks!

    Extra Credit) If Mittens is such a great candidate for the highest governance office in the country, why is he NOT touting his record in Massachusetts as a one-term Governor? Answer that, GOPers…

  • Truthclubber

    Update to @15 —

    It’s not just “me” that “thinks” this way, there are some other people, like Moody’s, for example:

    Local economies are “important,” said Xu Cheng, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics. A model that Moody’s developed based solely on state-by-state economic data and past voting behavior forecast the outcome in 2008, he said.

    A projection Moody’s made May 21 based on the model predicts an Obama victory with 303 electoral voters, with the Democrat carrying Ohio and Virginia and the Republican winning Florida. The economic data for the remainder of the year comes from Moody’s state-by-state forecasts.

  • Elwood

    “national polls do not have predictive power at this point in the cycle.”


  • Truthclubber

    @17 —

    I quote Bloomberg (he of the 3 term mayor of a slightly known city, New York, and the founder of a multi-billion dollar financial news organization), and someone who believes our current President is “a Kenyan” quotes this crapper of an obscure blog aka “The Skeptical Teacher” — whoooooooooooooooooa! I am sooooooooooo impressed by the depth and rigor of this display of intellect by the author as well as that of your esteemed sources — NOT!

    I suppose there are still people on this planet who believe that the world is flat because it sure looks that way from their front porch, and I suppose there are still people who believe that the moon landing in 1969 was fake because they couldn’t see it from the 4x power telescope on their front porch — but their numbers, like those who supported slavery, or supported a denial of women to vote, or supported the denial of the right of inter-racial couples to marry, or supported the denial of couples of the right to use bith control, are dying off, and good riddance to them — it’s time to move on and move forward.

  • Truthclubber

    @17 —

    Yo, Elwood! I dug into the blog of that “absolutely fabulous, aka Ab-Fab” source you linked to (you know, “The Skeptical Teacher”) and I saw where he makes a complete mockery (well, more than that, but this IS a family hour blog) of people just like you who keep claiming that our current President is a Kenyan — see for yourself!

    Here’s a direct quote:

    “…not only did the state of Hawaii address his [Bennetts’s] concerns (by providing solid evidence, yet again, that proves Obama was born in the U.S.), but it did so by turning the tables on Bennett [the sitting Arizona Secretary of State] and his fellow birthers…”

    So, yo, yo, — you gonna cite your source (this marvelous “Skeptical Teacher”) in one post as the authoritative absolute, and then denigrate and repudiate it in another post at the same time so you can continue to debase someone with darker skin than yours?

    Let me know if I need to use smaller words, so you can keep up with me…

  • JohnW

    I’m bracing for a Romney administration, supported by a GOP Senate and a Tea Party House. Already went through one Romney administration, as a kid in Michigan. But that was the good Romney, who built a real company, led the rewrite of the Michigan constitution before he ever ran for office and defied his fellow Mormon elders in supporting civil rights.

    It’ll be great. Cut taxes 20%, boost Defense spending and balance the budget. Now, that’s a hat trick! Also Romney promises 6% unemployment by the end of his first term. Gutsy call, considering CBO projects we are currently tracking toward 5.3% by that time and the average monthly number of new jobs required to hit 6% is less than the monthly average the economy has been adding since the end of 2009. Of course, Romney previously said Obama should have had it down to 4%.

  • Elwood

    @ # 19

    Just more ad hominem

    Same old same old.

  • Elwood

    @ # 20

    You’re gonna love it!