• Looking Back John Stewart's Interview with Jim Cramer

    Well, at this point everyone's seen or at least heard from those who saw Jim Cramer on The Daily Show last week. The interview capped off a week-long feud between Cramer and host Jon Stewart. Overall, Stewart took the Mad Money host, and the show's network, CNBC, to task for its failure to warn investors of the inevitable financial crisis. Cramer countered some of Stewart's rhetorical indictments and damning video footage with his own debate tactic: repeated apologies and seeming contrition.

    But while you may have formed your own opinions about the show's content, how do you really know what you saw until you find out what everyone else is saying? I mean, if Jon Stewart and The Daily Show have taught us anything, it's the importance of buying into public perceptions of reported discourse, right?

    With that in mind, I was asked to plough through the oodles of Indecision comments as well as the media at large to find out what really happened. My findings were intensely varied, but one thing became clear: many Daily Show viewers, inexplicably, do not understand how to spell Jon Stewart. (I counted over 100 spellings of "John.")

    The comments pretty much broke down like this…

    The overwhelming majority lauded Jon for his efforts, calling him everything from "smart" to a "patriot" to a "real journalist." Most felt Stewart had the courage, intelligence, and eloquence to say what should have been said by journalists and regulators years ago, and although this article provides a sampling of voices, that overall take should not be lost. Rather than fill this article with all the praise Stewart received, I thought I'd boil them all down to one fictitious comment…


    That pretty much sums up the praise in one perfect sex-based sentence.

    Of course, I should probably mention that fancypants Andrew Sullivan who encapsulated Stewart's value in one fairly literate sentence even if he doesn't have my gift for fictitious procreation-based metaphor…

    There is a cloying familiarity among many cable show hosts and television personalities. We all have to get along, even though some of us may believe that others of us are very much part of the problem, rather than the solution. And what Stewart has done is rip off that little band-aid of faux solidarity for a modicum of ethical and moral accountability.

    On the other side, a minority view bashed Stewart, ascribing his attack on Jim Cramer to purely to political bias…

    "Jon Stewart… is a political hitman for the Democratic Party. Anybody says anything negative about his party, they get slammed on the air."

    Comment by Patrick — March 13, 2009 @ 8:35 am

    Joe Scarborough also felt the need to break the interview down by political analysis on his Twitter account

    Joe Scarborough on Twitter: "Cramer just sat there and took his medicine. He's clearly shaken that his fellow Democrats have turned on him."

    (I don't follow Joe on Twitter. Are all his comments like this? "11:20 p.m. Eating a Twinkie more loaded with fats and sweets than Obama's stimulus bill.")

    * * *

    Perhaps, because Stewart's destruction of Cramer was so thorough and expertly achieved, few commenters felt the need to bash Cramer further, although several did give him credit for taking his beating with class.

    [Cramer] listened maturely and patiently to the brutal and painfully accurate criticisms levied by Jon with an ear open genuinely to learn how to make himself better.

    This seemed like such an ass-kicking because Cramer was open to criticism, and that should be respected and treated with dignity.

    Comment by Tim Richardson — March 13, 2009 @ 4:25 am

    So while most believed that Cramer gave the most unsettling performance since Ned Beatty in Deliverance, many (including me frankly) believed he made the most he possibly could of out the situation by expressing contrition and avoiding Tucker Carlson's 2004 indignation on Crossfire. That sentiment was also echoed by Gawker who reported that

    [W]ith Cramer seemingly apologizing for everything CNBC has ever aired, Stewart couldn't uppercut CNBC the way he did CNN and its Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson a few years ago.
    He was left to deliver (still very good!) packaged lines and videos and counter whatever coherent arguments he could distill from Cramer's sputtering.

    (On an unrelated note, they also have insight into Lindsay Lohan's "Crazy Tweets!")

    * * *

    Of course, the most interesting criticisms were not based on politics or personality, but on the roles of The Daily Show and Mad Money. Much in the way Stewart schooled Begala and Carlson in 2004 for failing to do their job as reporters, Stewart attacked Cramer and CNBC for merely perpetuating notions of market strength and corporate solvency offered by self-interested CEOs and hedge fund managers. But is that a perfect analogy? Some commenters claimed they never really viewed CNBC as journalists in the first place:

    CNBC's prerogative is not to pursue investigative reporting. This is where Stewart is confused. All those shows that air during market hours are intended to cover what is currently moving the market… Should CNBC actually try to be a news channel that covers news like CNN, with a focus on financials? Maybe. But I would prefer to watch CNN's financial reporters to do this job.

    Comment by David — March 13, 2009 @ 11:03 am

    These viewers see Cramer's Mad Money as sort of a fake financial show in the same way that the The Daily Show is a fake news show. And as such, feel Stewart himself could be brought down by the same kind of interview tactic.

    This would be the same as Television and Print Journalist inviting John Stewart into an pseudo interview where they essentially point out all hypocritical things that he does on his show as well as his support for politicians who in hindsight did not deserve the recognition and accolade's he accords them.

    Comment by Robert — March 13, 2009 @ 3:36 am

    While that assertion might be somewhat attenuated, it indicates a discomfort a small percentage of viewers feel in The Daily Show's mixture of comedy and hard reporting (even if it is self-professed "fake reporting").

    I enjoy that Jon Stewart goes after people, I do. However, I get tired of him torching people and then acting like he's just some show with 'fart sounds.' So he can say whatever he wants about anyone and if they dare question him or take issue with what he's saying, he can just say, "This is a comedy show, come on! Now, let's get back to me telling you how awful you are."

    Comment by China Brown — March 13, 2009 @ 3:26 am

    Or maybe ReneeS has it right? Perhaps, Jon Stewart has accepted that he fills a void left by a deficient media and labels his show fake news only out of a sense of humility and manners?

    You can't hide behind the "Just a Comedian" label anymore, Jon. This interview was the best piece of journalism we've seen this year…."The Daily Show" is what remains of our fourth estate. THANK YOU!!!

    Comment by ReneeS — March 13, 2009 @ 11:07 am

    Tags: CNBC, Economy, Jim Cramer, Jon Stewart, Rick Santelli, The Daily Show


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