Carl's Jr: When in trouble, blame socialism

The restaurant chain best known for sexist schlock TV ads picks a fight with California and Karl Marx

Published September 17, 2009 10:32PM (EDT)

Looking for a recipe for embarrassment? How about being forced to sit through a Carl's Jr. or Hardee's commercial while watching television with your teenage daughter? Whether it is the most repulsive soft-core porn video of all time -- starring Paris Hilton -- or the "Flat Buns" ad that manages to rip off both Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" and Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back," or the girl on the mechanical bull, there's one common theme: Sexist exploitation of women that makes a father ashamed for his entire civilization.

All of which made me strangely pleased today to learn from Dan Mitchell's The Business of Food blog at Slate's The Big Money that Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns both Carl's Jr and Hardee's, believes the governments of both California and Oregon are "socialist."

The problem: Hardee's and Carl's Jr. don't appear to be weathering the recession as well as some of their competitors:

But it's not his fault. Partly, he said Wednesday, it's the fault of "socialist type" state governments in California and Oregon. In a conference call with analysts, Puzder repeated his previously stated plan to "lessen our exposure in California over time." Meanwhile, "we're targeting a large percentage of our growth in Texas," he said. "It is deemed to be more business-friendly." As for Oregon, it "has a higher minimum wage and a similar regulatory structure as California and also has a similar socialist type government at the state level so business there actually can be as bad or worse than California."

Nice -- a red-baiter and a schlock pornographer! You don't see that combo every day, but somehow it doesn't seem all that surprising. As for me, I'd rather have big government telling businesses how much they have to pay teenagers than Carl's Jr telling my daughter that blond bimbos are a great way to sell beef.

But on second thought, maybe I don't have to be ashamed of my civilization. Maybe Carl's Jr. sales are slacking in California because enough people get sick at the very thought of eating at a chain that boasted "If it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your face." And in a recession, every mouth counts.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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