Mentioned briefly yesterday, Italian chef and restaurant mogul Mario Batali's shocking comments deserve a deeper look. Trouble started during a panel interview about Time's 2011 Person of the Year. In discussing their picks for the honor, Batali made the following statements about bankers:
The ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys...They're not heroes, but they are people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating.
Bankers responded immediately by cancelling their reservations at two of Batali's most popular (and expensive) New York restaurants, Del Posto and Babbo. They also called Bloomberg critic Ryan Sutton, who tweeted some of their comments with a #Bataligate hashtag.
Though Batali may have believed these statements, they were not intelligent in light of who his most popular (and well-paying) customers are at these restaurants. But, he made it worse.
Forbes reporter Jeff Bercovici offered him the chance to clarify his comments after the panel:
After the debate concluded, I asked Batali if he could elaborate on his belief in moral equivalence between the guys whose greed caused the mortgage crisis and the tyrants who slaughtered millions and reduced Europe to rubble. "Oh, that was just a metaphor," he said. But, offered the opportunity to back down from his pronouncement, he stood firm. "The way people change lives, I do think bankers change lives as much as a repressive [inaudible] autocrat. But, that said, it was more direct." ("It" presumably meaning the Hitler/Stalin form of evil.)
Batali then took to Twitter and said, " Mr [Bercovici] deliberately misquoted me for a pr land grab."
Pretty harsh thing to say, especially when the entire panel was caught on video tape and the reporter got audio of his interview with you. Time posted video of the panel online (Batali's comments begin around 6:40). Bercovici'a audio with Batali is below that.
Later on, Batali issued an apology for his earlier remarks by Twitter. "To remove any ambiguity about my appearance at yesterday’s Time Person of the Year panel, I want to apologize for my remarks. It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history."
What do you think of Batali's comments?