Was Warren Hellman joke culturally insensitive? 

Financer Warren Hellman, founder of the popular free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, got a front-row seat to San Francisco’s inner government when he set up a working group with labor leaders to come up with a November ballot measure that would reduce The City’s pension costs.

On Tuesday, Hellman was on hand to celebrate the success of the effort in a press conference with Mayor Ed Lee, nine members of the Board of Supervisors, labor leaders and more. Hellman opened and closed his remarks with a joke.

Hellman’s opening joke: “I did make the promise not to play the banjo.”

Then came closing joke when Hellman said: “I keep thinking that I belong to some Native American tribe and the chief is called Whowouldhavethunkit.”

While laughter was heard from the city family flanking him at the podium, some on hand wondered about the appropriateness of the joke.


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