The essential point, Glenn writes, is that financial “journalists” like Jim Cramer allowed Wall Street CEOs and top executives to feed them lies without ever doing the investigative legwork to show they were lies (emphasis is Glenn’s):
… Here is the crux of Stewart’s critique of Cramer/CNBC:
STEWART: This thing was 10 years in the making . . . . The idea that you could have on the guys from Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch and guys that had leveraged 35-1 and then blame mortgage holders, that’s insane. . . .
CRAMER: I always wish that people would come in and swear themselves in before they come on the show. I had a lot of CEOs lie to me on the show. It’s very painful. I don’t have subpoena power. . . .
STEWART: You knew what the banks were doing and were touting it for months and months. The entire network was.
CRAMER: But Dick Fuld, who ran Lehman Brothers, called me in – he called me in when the stock was at 40 — because I was saying: “look, I thought the stock was wrong, thought it was in the wrong place” – he brings me in and lies to me, lies to me, lies to me.
STEWART [feigning shock]: The CEO of a company lied to you?
STEWART: But isn’t that financial reporting? What do you think is the role of CNBC? . . . .
CRAMER: I didn’t think that Bear Stearns would evaporate overnight. I knew the people who ran it. I thought they were honest. That was my mistake. I really did. I thought they were honest. Did I get taken in because I knew them before? Maybe, to some degree. . . .
It’s difficult to have a reporter say: “I just came from an interview with Hank Paulson and he lied his darn-fool head off.” It’s difficult. I think it challenges the boundaries.
STEWART: But what is the responsibility of the people who cover Wall Street? . . . . I’m under the assumption, and maybe this is purely ridiculous, but I’m under the assumption that you don’t just take their word at face value. That you actually then go around and try to figure it out (applause).
That’s the heart of the (completely justifiable) attack on Cramer and CNBC by Stewart. They would continuously put scheming CEOs on their shows, conduct completely uncritical “interviews” and allow them to spout wholesale falsehoods. And now that they’re being called upon to explain why they did this, their excuse is: Well, we were lied to. What could we have done? And the obvious answer, which Stewart repeatedly expressed, is that people who claim to be “reporters” are obligated not only to provide a forum for powerful people to make claims, but also to then investigate those claims and then to inform the public if the claims are true. That’s about as basic as it gets.
Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times is mad jealous that a Comedy Central entertainer has stronger journalistic skills than most of the reporters at her paper.