Those in charge of CNBC, as well as signature talent like Jim Cramer, appear to remain utterly clueless about the damage that Jon Stewart inflicted on the network in one bold stroke on "The Daily Show." (For a helpful compilation of Stewart's eight-minute segment and some of the CNBC and Fox News howlers that preceded it, see this handy link from Esquire.)
What Stewart accomplished, with the help of his research staff, was such a damning blow to CNBC's credibility because it exposed an obvious fact the channel would surely like to overlook — namely, If you didn't know what the hell you were talking about then, why on Earth should anybody believe you now? And while nobody expects TV pundits to be 100 percent accurate, when they go that howlingly wrong, it's time to retreat to that old strategy of having a monkey throw darts to make stock picks.
Credibility is a fragile commodity, and for all its bluster, CNBC's is in tatters.
Stewart's piece, in fact, was only half of a one-two punch that Comedy Central landed on CNBC. The other came from Stephen Colbert, who featured CNBC's mad prophet Cramer as a guest, letting him hold forth about the market while Colbert ran pictures of puppies and kittens behind him. Cramer tried to play along with the joke, but as the audience roared, it only made him look like more of a buffoon. And when the CNBC host talks now about "wealth destruction," well, could anything have contributed more to destroying somebody's current wealth than heeding Cramer's advice back when he was yelling "buy, buy, buy" with the Dow at 13,000?
CNBC officials still haven't adequately addressed their role in all this, including today's New York Times piece, which was puffy — failing to include any reaction from the network to "The Daily Show" broadside, even a no comment — but nevertheless illuminating. CNBC President Mark Hoffman blandly told the Times that this is "a unique time for the organization," and so far, the network seems content to continue covering the financial crisis as if they were ESPN and this was their Super Bowl. The main problem with that strategy is that when football analysts get their predictions wrong, there's only one big loser.
Update: Stewart bitch-slapped CNBC again on Monday, running a pretty devastating assortment of clips that undermined Cramer's whining claims that he hadn't been a cheerleader for Bear Stearns before the company collapsed. Here's the video (also, see related post on Cramer's "Today" show appearance):