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Executive’s sexist rant at Kathy Griffin prompts backlash

Tiffany Hsu
Jeffrey Mezger, CEO of KB Home.
Ric Francis | AP

Jeffrey Mezger, the chief executive of KB Home, one of the country's largest homebuilders, was captured on audio Saturday night yelling at his neighbor, the comedian Kathy Griffin, using a series of sexist and homophobic slurs.

The string of crude comments prompted an immediate backlash against Mr. Mezger, whose company is the sixth-largest publicly traded homebuilder in the country, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Criticism quickly followed the publication of Mr. Mezger's recorded rant on Tuesday. Suze Orman, the former CNBC host, expressed disgust at the idea of buying a property from KB Home. "You really want to buy a home from this man?" she wrote on Twitter. "Beyond Disgusting!"

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The episode was apparently the culmination of a series of disputes involving Mr. Mezger, Ms. Griffin and Ms. Griffin's boyfriend, Randy Bick, who are neighbors in an exclusive gated community in the upscale Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The couple called the police on Saturday night to complain of noise coming from Mr. Mezger's backyard, according to HuffPost, which published the recording. Mr. Mezger's tirade, which was recorded by security cameras at Ms. Griffin's home, began once officers arrived.

Evidently angry that law enforcement was summoned at 9 p.m. to a gathering that included his three young grandchildren, their mother and his wife, Mr. Mezger can be heard referring to Ms. Griffin in derogatory terms, including a crude reference to the female anatomy and a disparaging term for lesbians.

Mr. Mezger also referred to Ms. Griffin's shaved head, meant to show support for her sister, Joyce, a cancer patient who died on Thursday, according to from the comedian.

Kathy Griffin is holding the press conference after a controversial photoshoot where she was holding a bloodied mask depicting President Donald Trump and to address alleged bullying by the Trump family.
Getty Images

On the recording, Mr. Mezger also indirectly referred to a photo shoot from May in which Ms. Griffin posed with a mask of President Trump that was covered in fake blood. Ms. Griffin apologized for the episode, but it nonetheless resulted in the loss of her place on CNN's annual New Year's Eve broadcast.

Ms. Griffin is someone whom "Donald Trump kind of put the heat on," he said.

In a statement, KB Home said Mr. Mezger had apologized to Ms. Griffin. The statement, however, also sought to explain the history between the neighbors and pointed out that the recording appeared to have been edited.

"Having said that, Mr. Mezger regrets losing his temper and the language he used," the company said. "It does not reflect who he is or what he believes."

The statement said that, while Mr. Mezger "does not believe there is any excuse" for his behavior, there had been a "series of unneighborly actions" by Ms. Griffin and Mr. Bick.

Ms. Griffin and Mr. Bick have called the police and security from the local homeowners' association between seven and 10 times, according to the statement.

The homeowners' group declined to comment. Ms. Griffin and Mr. Bick did not respond to messages left Tuesday evening.

Mr. Mezger is well regarded in Southern California business circles. He joined KB Home in 1993 and took over as chief executive in 2006.