Cheesesteaks can be sticky in Philly politics

September 24, 2008

PHILADELPHIA – Just ordering sandwiches can be political during a presidential campaign.

Aides to John McCain bought a supply of Philadelphia’s trademark cheesesteaks for media covering his campaign this week from Geno’s – renowned for its signs that read “This is America. When ordering please speak English.”

The signs have sparked controversy, even though owner Joey Vento has said he does not refuse service to non-English speaking customers.

Critics say the signs are intimidating.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations looked into the controversy and, earlier this year, ruled in a split decision that the signs did not constitute discrimination.

When Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigned in Philadelphia ahead of the Pennsylvania primary this spring, they each sampled a cheesesteak – but neither ate at Geno’s, according to local media reports.

McCain was nowhere near the press corps when the Geno’s order arrived at the Philadelphia hotel on Tuesday, so it was not known if he ate one. The McCain campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The order came with a supply of bumper stickers featuring Geno’s saying, a few of which now decorate the press section in the back of McCain’s campaign plane where reporters and photographers hang pictures and mementoes from months on the road.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.


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The only thing that matters here is that the cheesesteaks were good or not. Coming from Geno’s I’m betting they were awesome.
English only signs are meant to be intimidating. America has always welcomed people from other countries. All we ask is that you assimilate into our culture, learn our laws and obey them, and speak our language. That language is English. For such small sacrifice you get unlimited opportunity. It’s a fair trade off in my opinion.

Posted by Olddog | Report as abusive

Yes, yes —- there was a lot of controversy over the Geno’s sign, but after giving it some thought, did anyone stop to think that perhaps the Geno’s staff could not converse in any language but English? If you know that area and want to order food, you had better speak English. America is not a bilingual country and the city of Philadelphia certainly is not.

Posted by Anne Arkey | Report as abusive

I agree, I served in the US Army for 8 1/2 year, and was stationed in Germany for 3 1/2 of those years. Germany is renowned as having very open travel and movement laws in their country. While there I saw a great mix of world people from all over Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond. One thing I did NOT see was a great deal of catering and pandering to other people’s languages. A majority of German’s speak English, but I learned that they want you to at least TRY and speak German while in their country. After a few halting attempts to speak the language, most switch to English to help you communicate effectively. I think that is all we really want in America, and these signs are trying to stress, at least try instead of assuming that we will pander to you.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

As much as I want to hate the signs for being rude, they are not. If I want to live in spain, I have to learn spanish, portuguese for portugal. Yet in america we are racist if we want the same treatment the WORLD has had forever?

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

If Genos is like 99% of other restaurants in America, the staff probably all speak Spanish. Let’s start teaching Spanish in 1st grade, better to be bilingual than not.

Posted by Dan W | Report as abusive

Speaking Philadelphian is not the same as speaking English!
And yes of course, I am a Philadelphian- still recognized as such from my speech after 25 years of living elsewhere.

Posted by Kim | Report as abusive

Let’s talk about something huge. The AIG/financial/Dow Jones/ meltdown is not going away. The Federal Reserve system (FRS) is made up of PRIVATE, international banks, not necessarily domestic banks. Leohman Bros. is amongthe ten most powerful finacnialinstitutions in the world, and they go clipped. This is scary!! Go to a new website called Very interesting article on this and the coming train wreck called Social Security.

Posted by jim lofton | Report as abusive