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Notebook: Jon Stewart versus Jim Cramer


The "week-long feud of the century" reached its climax Thursday night as Jon Stewart welcomed freshly minted nemesis Jim Cramer to "The Daily Show." Cramer, who hosts a CNBC show called "Mad Money" had figured heavily in a "Daily Show" piece highlighting that network's poor track record on the financial apocalypse, an attack originally inspired by reporter Rick Santelli's diatribe against over-leveraged homeowners. ("If I only followed CNBC's advice," Stewart said then. "I'd have a million dollars today -- provided I'd started with $100 million.") When Cramer objected publicly to what he considered unfair treatment, Stewart and his writers, smelling comedy blood, turned their sights toward him. Or as the host described it last night, "We threw some Boston Cream pies at CNBC, you got a little obviously shmutz on your jacket from it, you took exception, and then we decided to hit you with pies."

Cramer throws actual pies on "Mad Money," a kind of overexcited video version of a drive-time radio show on which fans call up from an imaginary place called "Cramerica" to give him a "Boo-ya!" and ask what they should do with their money. The CNBC online store sells a talking Cramer bobblehead that screams "Buy! Buy! Buy!," "Sell! Sell! Sell!" and "Are you ready, Skee-daddy?"

The back-and-forth generated a lot of Web hits to the Comedy Central page and comments among the punditry, taking on a patina of "news" and turning a comic riff into a self-inflating media moment: "People on TV have talked about how much people on TV have talked about it," "Daily Show" announcer Drew Birns intoned with customary mock gravity at the opening of last night's show, which was being pitched like some WWE grudge match, excited certainly by memories of Stewart's 2004 dust-up with Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala of CNN's "Crossfire."

Stewart's point this time was much the same, that CNBC practiced irresponsible journalism,while selling itself as a source of superior insight and information. "You should be buying things and accept that they're overvalued but accept that they're going to keep going higher," Cramer said in one of the clips Stewart had earlier hurled against him, noting "I probably wouldn't have a problem with CNBC if Cramer's slogan was 'Cramer: He's right sometimes,' or 'Cramer: He's like a dartboard that talks.' "

Although Stewart took some care to separate Cramer, personally, from his larger attack on CNBC -- whose misrepresentation of the financial crisis as "some sort of crazy once-in-a-lifetime tsunami that nobody could have seen coming" he called "disingenuous at best and criminal at worst"  -- the net he was throwing was certainly meant to include him.

Earlier in the day, Cramer had appeared on "The Martha Stewart Show" and had admitted that he was "a little nervous" about going on "The Daily Show." "You should be nervous," Martha replied, and indeed there was something in his bearing last night that reminded one of a small boy reluctantly called before the school principal. Cramer is a star in his own world, but in the larger hierarchy of cable TV and pop-political culture, "The Daily Show" ranks higher than "Mad Money." And though he had told Martha Stewart earlier that "I’m going to have to fight back. I’m not a doormat," he came off rather as chastened, conciliatory, pleading and overwhelmed:

"I try really hard to make as many good calls as I can."

"I should do a better job."

"I wish I'd done a better job."

"I'm trying. I'm trying."

Jon Stewart had a home-court advantage, of course, as well as a few damning clips, not meant for broadcast, of Cramer describing, in a positive way, certain barely to not-even-barely legal things a hedge fund manager might do to work the market to his advantage. And he also had editorial control -- the interview that went out over the air was cut for time; Cramer comes off somewhat better in the complete exchange, which is available online. But what makes Stewart formidable is that he also has a passion greater than the irony in which it is often couched.

Cramer, who repeatedly characterized the illegal and merely immoral doings of the market as "shenanigans," tried to downplay his own importance: "I'm not Eric Sevareid, I"m not Edward R. Murrow. I'm a guy trying to do an entertainment show about business." Like Stewart, he said, he wanted his show to be "successful" and to "bring in younger people."

Stewart was having none of it. "I understand you want to make finance entertaining," he said, "but ... you knew what the banks were doing and yet were touting it for months and months. ... These guys were on a Sherman's March through their companies financed by our 401Ks, and all the incentives for their companies were for short term ... and they ... walked away rich as hell. And you guys knew it was going on."

Closing the show, Stewart added, "I hope that was as uncomfortable to watch as it was to do."

-- Robert Lloyd

Photo: AP

Comments () | Archives (33)

This country is in worse shape than I thought when people actually care what Jon Stewart has
to say. Now I think both are idiots, Stewart is a complete puppet talking head; with his snotty
ass attitude disguised as a sense of humor. He comes up with almost NONE of the points on
his show anyway. Take away the writers and see what you have.
I see the brain cells melting away as people listen to these guys....

Someone said Letterman and Stewart are two of the best interviewers on TV.
Now I have heard it all.

Outstanding interview! I wish everyone in the US would see it. I have lost respect for Cramer, and affirmed my respect for Jon Stewart! Thanks, Jon! BSS

Jon Stewart was brilliant. The entire unedited interview is very much worth watching. No joke - this is world class journalism on display.

Jim Crammer is a stock annalist not a journalist.

Thank you for pointing out that Cramer is not a journalist. He IS an analyst. An analyst is someone that, through research, gathers information and makes some type of conclusion. He is responsible for ensuring that the information he is basing that conclusion is accurate. That requires that he ask the same kind of tough questions an investigative journalist would ask. In the end though, a journalist reports news while an analyst provides opinions. He should be held to a HIGHER standard than a journalist. Think about it.

I loved the Daily Show last night but I think Stewart is focusing way too much on the financial news media. Anyone can tell that Cramer is a BS artist. He got what he deserved the first night when he was on Colbert. Financial news media reports on news. If our regulators are not making news by regulating these transactions then, it is the regulators fault, not the news media. Why is no one holding the government accountable? Blame the SEC not CNBC. Or is that not cool now since it is a Democratic administration now?

Cramer just a fall guy fro CNBC, Remember Santelli would not even come on the show and that's what really annoyed Stewart after what Santelli said.

Cramer is an entertainer at best. Serious Journalism would not hurt the guy, but he is going to need a new network. CNBC has pandered way too much to the wall street and Rebuplican crowd.

We only get to see Stewart put on the serious stuff once and a while, fun to watch the "Experts" sit there a little aghast at how prepared he usually is and sometimes he seems
to actually know more than they do.

Cudos John Stewart, another great one. Maybe they will start to listen, then maybe not (he had someone on for the Iraq Weapons that said they were not there, nobody listened then), thanks for at least doing what the "News" networks should be doing.

The worst thing that happened to the USA in the 20th century - the Depression? Pearl Harbor? 9/11? Not even close. It was corporate ownership and takeover of the news media, a glaring conflict of interest that everyone accepts and takes for granted now, but which will eventually (with Stewart's help) be recognized for the subversion of freedom and democracy that it is. I'm sitting here right now watching Olberman and apparently there will be no mention of the Stewart/Cramer episode on Countdown tonight. A story as tailor made as any in recent memory for the type of alternative news coverage Olberman specializes in will be swept under the rug because he's on the same network as Cramer. Not even Fox News will go there either, with a story that directly attacks the credibility of their arch enemy and main competitor, MSNBC. This really was the E.R. Murrow moment of our times and it puts the MSM to complete and utter shame.

Thank you John Stewart for doing what our news media does not do - question that which is blatently wrong. On Morning Joe and on Today and all the MSM shows Jim Cramer was defended all week. It was gratifying to see him go head to head with someone that actually has a brain and cares about the US.

Jon Stewart was insightful , Cramer seemed to be walking on eggshells. I think he has a lot more skeletons in his closet, that he was afraid may revealed. This did not seem to be the cantankerous braggart/father-figure/drinking buddy that appears on CNBC. While it is good to see someone shine a light on the manipulations and miscreants at CNBC, it would be better still if someone were to actually investigate the banks, the brokerages, the security rating firms and AIG. You know our financial house has been on fire for 6 months, the economy in a officially defined "recession" for 18 months, and yet I haven't seen a single television program explaining what happened.

You could do a freakin weekly series, 26 hour long episodes on this - half the wealth of the nation is gone - you can't tell me people wouldn't be interested. Its half the money in the country gone and nobody wants to write about it, or investigate it or prosecute it. Am I missing something.

Why do the powers the be walk away and leave it all on Jon Stewart? Is that a coverup I smell or are we still trying to blame the home owners that took out fraudulently written mortgages, you know the only people who really lost something tangible in the deal, are they still the scapegoats?

Stewart is a funny guy but a journalist? Really? Give me a break. They guy is a hack; he's a mouthpiece for the Democrats. He's funny and he's good but he's not a journalist. He would never do the same to another Democrat and to say otherwise is disingenuous. Cramer was embarassingly timid. I think he curled into a ball in a corner of the studio and pissed on himself...I ALMOST felt sorry for him. His man card has officially been taken away from him because you need minerals and he clearly doesn't have them anymore.

Stewart is a joke of a journalist but he's one heck of a Democratic tool. With guys like him we can now welcome a Brave New World of beauracratic displacement.

ChestRockwell is a puppet talking head. Who writes for this guy...EdCruz?

Stewart is a man who hides behind the Comedy Central logo. He hides behind there spewing his fake news, and once in a while, comes out and takes a pop shot at other people.

Cramer is an entertainer, like Stewart. What is Cramer paid for? Only fools would say "news" or "advice". He is paid to ENTERTAIN. Same with CNBC. Same with every channel on cable. If you want the true news, go get the annual report from companies and do your own analysis. Don't blame other people for failing to educate. Everyone has the same information... that is the basic premise of public companies -- everyone has the same public information.

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