'The Chew's' Mario Batali Under Fire for Comparing Bankers to Hitler and Stalin, Forced to Apologize

11:37 AM PST 11/12/2011 by THR Staff
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Mario Batali

The celebrity chef and daytime co-host made the controversial statements about bankers earlier this week, causing Wall Street to boycott his restaurants.

Celebrity chef and The Chew co-host Mario Batali is under fire for statements that he made comparing bankers to Hitler and Stalin.

Batali, who is a best-selling author, owns restaurants across the country and is a partner in New York's Eataly, made the controversial statements at a Time magazine event on Tuesday touting the publication's Person of the Year issue, The Guardian reports.

Batali nominated Michael Pollan, a food writer before having a few words. "But I would have to say that who has had the largest effect on teh whole planet without us really paying attention is the entire banking industry, and their disregard for the people that they're supposed to be working for," Batali said.

He continued: "The way the bankers have toppled the way money is distributed -- and taken most of it into their own hands -- is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys."

Reaction from Wall Street was immediate. Following Batali's comments, bankers went on Twitter and implemented a hashtag, #bataligate, to air their grievances and unhappiness. Additionally, members of Wall Street organized a boycott with the following message shown on the trading floors asking for those with reservations at any of Batali's restaurants to cancel: "Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Says Bankers As Bad As Hitler, Stalin ... a list of his restaurants ... cancel all reservations ... pass the word."

Following the criticisms, Batali wrote on Twitter to explain himself more fully. "To remove any ambiguity about my appearance at yesterday's Time Person of the Year panel, I want to apologise for my remarks," he wrote after the event.

In a following tweet, he wrote: "It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history."

Batali's apology seemed to satisfy food author and trader Sean Feeney, who had said that he wasn't going to react until Batali explained himself. "I've said from the start I didn't believe Mario really felt bankers were as bad as Hitler and Stalin, and it's very clear that he knows he screwed up and feels sorry about what he sai," Feeney wrote.

Batali's choice words at around the same time Tower Heist director Brett Ratner exited as Oscars producer after using a gay slur. Eddie Murphy left as Oscars host and the Academy subsequently tapped film and television producer Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal to replace Ratner and Murphy, respectively.

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