General Motors (GM) has some serious issues in production and public relations. The expanding list of cars recalled for ignition problems has the automaker scrambling to maintain its reputation with consumers. Then, on Friday, the Department of Transportation slapped a $35 million fine on GM — the maximum allowed by law.

Joining the burgeoning recall problem, the recent discovery of an embarrassing memo from 2008 that instructed GM workers on specific language they should never use when describing the company’s cars.

The mortifying memo lists 69 “judgment words” that employees should shy away from when writing memos, reports or presentations.



Following last week’s exposure of the 2008 email, GM spokesman Greg Martin was quick to defend the company, telling Reuters, “Today’s GM encourages employees to discuss safety issues, which is reinforced through GM’s recently announced Speak Up for Safety Program.”

Martin’s effort to get in front of this latest public relations problem did not prevent HBO’s John Oliver from skewering the memo and the company on his comedic news show, “Last Week With John Oliver.”

Listing a few of the more surprising, GM-banned terms like, “deathtrap, grenade-like, decapitating and hindenburg,” Oliver didn’t hold back: “When demons have sex, those are their ‘safe words.’”

Image: YouTube

Image: YouTube

After Oliver took apart the memo, he played a parody commercial that used much of the off-limit language in a spot that skewered the car maker. The clever parody closes with the announcer asking, “Why walk through the valley of the shadow of death, when you can drive?”

Watch the segment. The “commercial” starts at the 1:44 mark:


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