NBC Fires Back at Stewart

Today NBC fired back at Jon Stewart for his recent criticism of CNBC calling it unfair and absurd.

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker fired back at comedian Jon Stewart on Wednesday, saying it was “unfair” and “absurd” for the funnyman to criticize CNBC and question its coverage of financial news.

“Everybody wants to find a scapegoat. That’s human nature,” Zucker said during a keynote address at a media industry conference. “But to suggest that the business media or CNBC was responsible for what is going on now is absurd.”

“Just because someone who mocks authority says something doesn’t make it so,” Zucker said, describing the comedian’s comments as “completely out of line.”

Zucker’s comments are the latest salvo in a war of words with Stewart, who hosts the mock news program “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on the Comedy Central cable television network owned by Viacom Inc (VIAb.N).
In case you missed it last week, here are two must reads on Stewart’s much reported take down of Jim Cramer and CNBC. From Megan McArdle:

I’ve seen a number of people making some variant of the claim that Jon Stewart is the only one brave enough to stand up to the financial journalists who helped get us into this mess.

This is purest poppycock. Jim Cramer had no influence over the twin manias that afflicted America in the last ten years: the madness of homebuyers for ever more expensive houses, and the madness of bankers for buying bonds based on those homes. Jim Cramer did not persuade the Asian savers to pour moronic amounts of capital into oversaturated American markets. He did not talk up MBS or CDOs to any level that could be vaguely said to have meaningfully increased the amount of leverage in the system. If you want a television host, or network, to blame all of our troubles on, you’d do better to cast your ire on Home and Garden Television, and Flip This House. They’re the ones who told Americans, over and over and over and over, that it was possible to get rich by installing granite countertops.

Michael Moynihan:

Jumping on the Jon Stewart bandwagon, Todd Gitlin, Eric Alterman, Chris Hayes, and sundry other lefty activists have started the website fixcnbc.com, a network, they argue, that has helped “get us into the economic crisis we face today.” This is utter nonsense. And the website presumes that we already agree with this blame-a-cable-network argument, offering little evidence (save an embedded Daily Show video) to bolster its case. It does, though, offer a quote from everyone’s favorite hate-figure, host of CNBC’s Mad Money Jim Cramer, as proof of the network’s unforgivable perfidy: “Housing bubble? What housing bubble? The signs are in place for a further run-up in real estate. Breathe easy, mortgage holders…There is no housing bubble.” As fixcnbc.com notes, Cramer’s assurance was made in 2003–hardly damning evidence of his complicity in “the economic crisis we face today.” (In 2007, Cramer freaked out about the housing crisis on his CNBC show). Indeed there are many that are stepping up to defend Cramer’s now-infamous advice on Bear Stearns, arguing that professional economists like Stewart misunderstand the difference between keeping stock in Bear Stearns and keeping a brokerage account with the company.

But rather than attacking just Cramer–who does seem to be an unreliable source of financial information–why not go after Barney Frank who, also in 2003, argued that “these two entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not facing any kind of financial crisis.” As the Washington Post reported, Frank “said the [Bush] administration’s position [on tighter regulation of Fannie and Freddy] is driven by concerns about the financial safety and soundness of the companies ‘to the exclusion of concern about housing.'” To the exclusion of concern about housing. But here is a potential difference: Frank hasn’t attacked Barack Obama’s stimulus plan as “causing the greatest destruction of wealth I have ever seen by a president,” as Cramer recently did.

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