TBT: Ten Years Ago Jim Cramer’s Infamous Bear Stearns Rant Led to Jon Stewart Showdown
“Bear Stearns is fine!” Mad Money host Jim Cramer bellowed in March 2008 on his CNBC show — just a week before the bank collapsed.
The famed financial prognosticator has been perhaps as persistent a face of financial punditry as Larry Kudlow, his fellow CNBC host who is departing the network this week to serve as chief economic adviser to the Trump administration.
But Larry Kudlow never appeared on Jon Stewart.
Stewart, at the time the hawk-eyed populist-satirist of the Daily Show, went to town on CNBC in March 2009, calling out the network for what he saw as a reckless churn of business-cum-entertainment news in the wake of the global financial crisis.
And he singled out Cramer, a former journalist and hedge fund manager, as part of the problem, showing a clip of the host’s Bear Stearns rant and mocking the bold prediction.
The clip showed Cramer responding to an emailed question about whether one should be worried about Bear Stearns’ liquidity and pull one’s money from the bank.
“No! No! No! Bear Stearns is fine,” Cramer shouted in response to the question. “Do not take your money out. Bear Stearns is not in trouble. If anything, they’re more likely to be taken over. Don’t move your money from Bear. That’s just being silly. Don’t be silly.”
One year later, Stewart ruthlessly tore into Cramer for the advice, as part of his larger critique of CNBC’s business model.
While most of CNBC remained mum about the brutal Stewart attacks as they dragged on night after night, Cramer was not satisfied taking the criticism: he fired back at Stewart, claiming it was an “urban legend” that he had ever recommended buying Bear Stearns stock.
And Cramer had something of a point: he claimed he was not referring to Bear Stearns stock in his comments, but simply saying customers could keep their money at the bank.
In response, Stewart offered something of an apology.
“Okay, I was wrong,” Stewart said on his show that night. “He was simply saying that if Bear was your broker or if your money was at Bear, your money would not disappear. He was not addressing the value of holding Bear stock. So Jim Cramer, I apologize.”
“Technically you were correct, you weren’t suggesting to buy Bear Stearns,” Stewart continued. “That was something that you did five days earlier.”
He Daily Show host then played a clip of Cramer declaring “I believe in the Bear Stearns franchise, you know what, at $69, I’m not giving up on this!”
The feud went back and forth — and even included a brutal monologue in which Stewart lambasted Cramer as “Mr. Creamer” — before culminating in an astonishing and muched-hyped showdown between Cramer and Stewart on the Daily Show.
Business journo Joe Nocera, who participated in some of Stewart’s coverage of CNBC, looked back on the showdown in a New York Times column years later — and described it as follows:
Watching Stewart’s takedown of him again the other day — complete with clips of an interview Cramer gave in which he talked about fooling the S.E.C. while he ran his hedge fund — made me cringe, just as it had at the time. Instead of defending himself, Cramer sheepishly agreed with most of Stewart’s criticism. And Stewart was unrelenting, essentially accusing Cramer and his network of being in bed with the people it covered. “He got at the intimacy between the network and its subjects,” said Jason Ross, one of “The Daily Show” writers, the other day.
“I’m a guy trying to do an entertaining show about business for people to watch,” Cramer finally said.
“So maybe we could remove the ‘financial expert’ and [the slogan] `In Cramer We Trust,’” replied Stewart. “And start getting back to fundamentals on the reporting.”
Watch the showdown here.
[image via screengrab]
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