Donald Trump’s labor secretary nominee, Andrew Puzder, doesn’t appreciate being the butt of his competitors’ jokes.
In 2007, CKE Restaurants, the fast food company headed by Puzder, sued rival Jack-in-the-Box for suggesting that the meat in Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. angus beef burgers was anything but top quality.
At issue were two ads from Jack-in-the-Box. In one ad, Jack-in-the-Box employees laughed every time the word Angus was said. In another, Jack, the company’s mascot, leads a meeting where he refuses to point to where Angus beef comes from.
“That’s the sirloin area,” Jack says, while pointing to an image of different cuts of beef from a cow.
“Jack, our competitors serve Angus burgers. Could you point to the Angus area?,” a man in the meeting asks.
“I’d rather not,” Jack responds.
CKE restaurants didn’t like the backhanded insult.
“They’re not being funny,” Puzder said to the Associated Press in 2007. “They need to stop misleading people about what Angus beef is,” he said.
Angus is a type of cattle, while a sirloin is a cut of meat present in all cattle.
CKE Restaurants decided to sue in federal court.
“If they want to have a war, we will take the gloves off,” Puzder told The Los Angeles Times.
In court, Puzder’s CKE argued that the ads created the false impression Angus beef came from the anus of the cattle.
“Defendant’s Sirloin burger commercials create the false impression that the meat used in plaintiff’s 100% Angus Beef Hamburgers comes from the rear-end and/or anus of beef cattle by creating phonetic and aural confusion between the words ‘Angus’ and ‘anus,'” CKE argued.
In a declaration submitted to the court, Puzder said that “even a 1% sales decline of 100% Angus beef hamburger in most recent sales period would equate to lost sales of millions of dollars.”
“I think Angus beef actually has sirloin as one of its cuts,” Puzder said on NBC News, defending the suit. “And then when you try and take the ‘G’ out of Angus, which is kind of the joke in their ads — when you try and take the ‘G’ out, you know, and say that Angus beef comes from the hind section of the cow, you know, it’s just not true.”
“In our ads we don’t lie about anybody,” Mr. Puzder added to the OC Register. “Angus is a breed of cow. It’s not a cut of beef.”
CKE Restaurants saw initial setbacks in the case. Attempts to get an injunction to have ads removed from the air were denied, and a judge said he was not convinced by a survey submitted by CKE Restaurants that of 404 people, 36% thought Angus beef came from the butt of the cow.
“We’re glad that common sense prevailed and that this motion was denied,” a spokesperson for Jack-in-the-Box said at the time.
Puzder, meanwhile, was undeterred.
“At this point, we have every intention of pursuing this case,” Puzder said to Reuters. “This was sort of a beginning skirmish.”
The case ultimately reached a settlement and was dismissed. Both parties agreed to waive their attorney’s fees. Neither CKE Restaurants nor Jack-in-the-Box returned a request for comment asking about the terms of the settlement.
CNNMoney (New York) First published February 3, 2017: 5:12 PM ET