Admittedly, I slept through Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday’s episodes of “The Daily Show,” however, since they run about 4 times a day, I was always able to catch up some how some way. Watching the escalation of this pseudo-war between Jon Stewart and CNBC was titillating, and my anticipation for Thursday’s big blow out was paramount.
Needles to say, Jim Cramer knew what he was getting himself into, and the look in his eyes screamed “take mercy on me, as I’m only here as CNBC’s sacrificial lamb.” When working in Public Relations, you can tell when a person or company goes into “damage control” mode.
And who better to plead mea cupla than the frenetic “Mad Money” host?
With a documented history of explaining to others how to manipulate the markets (as Stewart so delightfully had cued and ready to go), and an admission of wrong doing straight from the horse’s mouth, Cramer was easy to cut loose.
(I’m also fairly confident that he didn’t help his cause much when he was noting that there was more he could have done, there was more CNBC could have done, and they were to blame from not having journalistic integrity. It was as though he was flailing to bring down as many people a he could, but was doing so to no avail).
Now, here’s what I’m interested in: why go on the show?
Earlier in the day, a more animated Cramer was on the Martha Stewart Show discussing Jon Stewart (while simultaneously beating some dough, an allusion not lost on Stewart). It seemed as though he knew he was going to be stepping into a minefield, but that he was confident he could come out with at least one good leg.
Turns out, that didn’t seem to be the case.
After Santelli backed out of appearing on the show, Stewart opened his arsenal of sardonic wit and went after the financial news channel. CNBC’s options, it seemed, would be to ignore Stewart’s barbs or to send someone into the trenches to do battle.
From a PR standpoint, doing nothing would have been a bad idea. Though Stewart is “a comedian,” he is also incredibly educated and articulate with a following that holds similar values and ideals. As he stated in his interview with Cramer, Stewart admits that what he’s selling is snakeoil; by virtue of disclosing the fact that he knows he’s not reporting the news, but rather reporting on how the reporting is done, Stewart earns some credibility points (points Cramer and CNBC seem to be lacking).
Allowing Stewart to continue lambasting CNBC without addressing him (on his own turf or in a CNBC studio–though, they probably learned after Tucker Carlson that Stewart at least shows restraint when he’s playing host) would have seemed cowardly and, perhaps, as though he were right (which, it turns out, he sort of is).
So they go for option two: send Cramer into the fray and hope for the best.
At this point, Cramer was met with a fork in the road; one path would have him come out swinging, attacking Stewart and his show as a being just as guilty as CNBC or any other outlet for not doing something to make things better, but rather making things worse by mocking the current situation and propagating an air of distrust in our leaders. The other, the one he chose, the smart path, was coming on humbly, speaking when spoken to, not getting irked when interrupted, apologizing and acknowledging his very big shortcoming.
Cramer was turned into a scapegoat by CNBC at large. IF one man were to be held responsible for the actions of a network, I’d have to assume it would be the person in charge of that network. So let’s scapegoat Mark Hoffman.
The problem with tackling an issue like this head on is that no matter what, Cramer was going to come out looking like a fool. Whether he was an aggressor or a stooge, Cramer didn’t have the week long build-up, he didn’t have the home court advantage and he certainly didn’t have the conveniently cued videos.
From this point forward, the best thing for Cramer (and CNBC) would be to actually do something to cultivate change within the way they report the news. If you know someone is lying to you, try investigating it and getting to the bottom of the source. If you know a company is about to tank, let people know. And if you’re not going to let them know, don’t go encouraging them to put their hard earned money into it.
At the very least, assume the responsibility of running a financial news show. Because when a “variety show” as Cramer put it, does more for the American people with respect to their money than a cable finance network does, that says a lot. And none of it’s good.
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