It was supposed to be a moment of high drama – when Comedy Central “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart faced off with CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer. But it wasn’t a fight, it was more of a beating. The “comedian,” as Cramer recently called him, repeatedly bashed the financial network and its star host in a segment called “Brawl Street.”
The week-long feud began when CNBC reporter Rick Santelli canceled his scheduled appearance on the March 5 “The Daily Show,” which led to a scathing attack on the entire CNBC network, and Cramer taking a few jabs in return. Finally, the “Mad Money” host sat down for an interview with Stewart on his March 12 broadcast. Initially, Cramer was apologetic for his the way the entire financial crisis had gone done from a media point-of-view.
“I think that everyone could have come in under criticism because we all should have seen it more,” Cramer said. “I mean, admittedly, this is a terrible one and everybody got it wrong. I got a lot of things wrong, because I think it was a one in a million shot.”
However, Cramer would stick with that theme for the rest of the interview. Stewart differentiated his “comedy” show from what Cramer bills his show to be – an educational show with stock recommendations.
“You know, we’re both snake oil salesman to a certain extent,” Stewart said. “But, we do label this show as snake oil here. Isn’t there a problem selling snake oil as vitamin tonic and saying that it cures impetigo, etc., etc. etc.?”
Stewart brought up a video Cramer for TheStreet.com on Dec. 22, 2006, in which he explained how the hedge fund he once managed would manipulate stock prices. The Comedy Central host challenged Cramer
“I want the Jim Cramer on CNBC to protect me from that Jim Cramer,” Stewart said.
He then scolded Cramer for his antics that have made his show famous – like the “bells and whistles” that are part of the “Mad Money” production.
“I got to tell you, I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a [expletive] game,” Stewart said. “And when I watch that, I can’t tell you how angry that makes me because what it says to me is that you all know – you all know what’s going on. You know, you can draw a straight line from those shenanigans, to the stuff that was being pulled at Bear, and at AIG and all this derivative market stuff that is this weird Wall Street side bet.”
The Daily Show host repeatedly raised questions about how CNBC handled its reporting. “What we are getting is, listen you knew what the banks were doing. And yet we're touting it for months and months. The entire network was. And so now to pretend that this was some sort of crazy, once in a lifetime tsunami that nobody could have seen coming is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst.”
When Cramer tried to defend himself and said CEOs, even ones he trusted, had lied to him, Stewart mocked him. “The CEO of a company lied to you,” Stewart said. “But isn’t that financial reporting? I mean, I guess, what do you feel like is the role of CNBC?”
Cramer insisted he wanted legal proceedings and indictments – “star chambers” and “kangaroo courts” – for the individuals involved.
Cramer contended there was a market for what CNBC does, including show like “Fast Money,” which features a panel of hedge fund traders. However, Stewart commented there were a “market” for a lot of things.
“There’s a market for cocaine and hookers,” Stewart countered.
Cramer later issued a mea culpa and expressed his regret for what has happened.
“I think that as a network, we’ve produced a lot of interviews where I think that we’ve been – there have been people that have not told the truth,” Cramer said. “Should we have been constantly pointing out the mistakes that were made? Absolutely. I surely wish we had done more. I think that we had been tough on the previous Treasury secretary, very tough on the previous administration – how they didn’t get it, very tough on Ben Bernanke.”
Stewart suggested CNBC personalities not take their interviewees at their word, insisted to remove some of the sensationalistic components of Cramer’s show and “getting back to fundamentals.”
“I think we make that deal right here,” Cramer said.