Economist, actor, and former White House speechwriter Ben Stein wants to set the record straight after the National Enquirer accused him of being part of a “sexting scandal.” Stein, who is married, also explained why he wrote a column describing his “secret gf” and his relationships with several other “pretty girls” he met while travelling for speaking engagements.
Stein texted Business Insider with four points late Wednesday night after we wrote a story about his column and the subsequent tabloid coverage. He took issue with the Enquirer’s claim he was involved in “sexting” and the title of our piece, which characterised his column as describing his “obsession with any beautiful girl he meets.”
“1. No sexting. 2. No scandal. 3. No obsession. 4. There is no story here,” Stein wrote.
Stein eventually called Business Insider to explain how the entire situation occurred because he made “the unfortunate mistake of meeting a very vengeful human being who’s very angry that she did not get to stay at the Beverly Wilshire.”
The Enquirer story, which was published Wednesday, claimed Stein texted a woman he described meeting in one of his regular columns for the American Spectator asking her to be his “secret girlfriend.” Additionally, the tabloid said Stein sent the woman several checks totaling $US900. The column in question was part of the magazine’s long running “Ben Stein’s Diary” series and was published in its June issue. Stein’s story described his “crushes” on an “absolute knockout young Eurasian woman,” a “breathtakingly beautiful middle-aged woman,” a “beautiful cocktail party girl,” “three glorious co-eds” he met at a Waffle House restaurant and someone he described as “my secret gf from Mississippi.”
In his text messages, Stein told Business Insider he has been writing “for at least 40 years about the interesting people I meet.”
“I am flattered that you find it worthy of mention,” he explained. “I believe it to have been a staple of writing more or less forever.”
Stein also said he was merely making a movie reference that was amusing to him and his wife when he wrote about having a “secret gf.”
“It is a reference to the classic movie ‘Animal House’ in which Dean Wormer puts [John] Belushi’s fraternity on ‘secret probation,'” Stein texted. “I don’t have a secret gf or a public gf. It is a humorous phrase at least to my wife and me.”
However, Stein admitted he communicated with the various women he described in his column.
“I communicate with many men and women every week. And I send money to some of them,” wrote Stein. “They don’t even remotely have to be romantically involved with me for me to help them or communicate with them.”
Stein went on to describe these communications as part of an adherence to basic economic principles.
“Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce goods. The scarcest of these are life and happiness,” Stein wrote. “I get a lot of happiness out of meeting and befriending those who appreciate me.”
After exchanging a series of text messages with Business Insider, Stein called to discuss the situation further. He explained how one of the women he wrote about contacted the tabloids because she was “furiously mad” he would not pay for her to fly out to visit him in Los Angeles and stay at the five star Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
“One of the girls, I won’t say which, was furiously mad at me that I wouldn’t send her to LA and called the Enquirer,” said Stein.
According to Stein, he might have paid for the woman’s trip if she picked a cheaper hotel.
“I think she thought that she had met Daddy Warbucks who was going to make her into a wealthy woman … she realised it was just idle conversation,” Stein explained. “Although, I probably would have given her money if she said, ‘Look I’ll stay in some modest hotel.’ … Once she started talking about the Beverly Wilshire, all bets were off.”
Stein said the woman simultaneously texted him and the Enquirer’s sister publication, Radar Online.
“When the girl in question was texting me saying, essentially, ‘Where’s my trip to the Beverly Wilshire?’ she was copying Radar.com,” Stein explained. “So, this is a case of a woman who feels done wrong by not getting a trip to the Beverly Wilshire.”
Stein also said he was surprised the Enquirer took notice of his June column. In that story, he described a woman he met in a bar attempting to get him to buy her a stay at the Beverly Wilshire.
“I’ve been writing these columns about meeting pretty girls at airports and Waffle Houses for literally since before you’ve been alive,” said Stein, later adding, “These columns have been appearing in the Spectator forever. … There’s no point to the columns … or if there is a point, the point is just to show what I do each day.”
Stein also noted many of his columns describe his love for his wife, attorney Alexandra Denman.
“The vast majority of the ink, or the electrons, or whatever you call it these days is devoted to my love and my life with my wife and second after that my dog,” Stein said.
His wife was apparently amused by his appearance in the tabloids.
“We were joking that I’m probably the only person who’s ever read ‘A Monetary History of the United States‘ who ended up in the National Enquirer,” said Stein.
After our conversation, Stein said several more text messages wherein he detailed his feelings for his wife.
“The real issue, as Milton Friedman said often, is maintaining a positive utility function for your life over its entire life,” he wrote. “I try to do that but often fail. My wife is the main contributor to my utility function. We have been together since 1966.”
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