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A throwback to the time Jon Stewart grilled Jim Cramer over the 2008 financial crisis

"After the interview, total strangers would come up to me and say, 'Jim, I'm sorry.' That made me feel horrible, people feeling sorry for me. For six months it was on my mind all the time," Cramer later admitted.

A throwback to the time Jon Stewart grilled Jim Cramer over the 2008 financial crisis
Cover Image Source: (L) Jon Stewart on August 6, 2015, in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central) (R) Jim Cramer on January 16, 2008, in New York City. (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images)

It began with the Santelli rant. During a February 2009 episode of CNBC's "Squawk Box," the network's commodities reporter Rick Santelli tore into the Obama administration's plan to help underwater homeowners, describing those who couldn't afford their mortgages as "losers." While Santelli's outburst resonated with conservatives, it also caught the attention of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show writers. It prompted them to take a closer look at CNBC's practice of producing a steady stream of "entertaining" business news and they soon had a bone to pick with the network for failing to warn the public about the unscrupulous financial practices that had taken the economy crashing down.



 

 

According to The New York Times Magazine, Stewart found all the arsenal he needed in video clips of Maria Bartiromo, Larry Kudlow, Jim Cramer, and other CNBC stars making terrible judgments. He screened a clip of Cramer encouraging viewers of his "Mad Money" show to buy stock in Bear Stearns just days before it collapsed and another of the former hedge fund manager predicting with confidence that Bank of America stock would go to $60 "in a heartbeat," juxtaposed with a silent screen showing that the shares were selling for less than $4.



 

 

While most CNBC stars chose to take Stewart's beating silently, Cramer decided to fight back. In a column posted on MainStreet.com, he complained that Stewart took his words out of context and that he was merely reassuring a viewer that money held in Bear Stearns accounts was safe. According to Los Angeles Times, Stewart responded with a mock apology to Cramer where he said: "OK. I was wrong. 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. You weren't suggesting to buy Bear Stearns. That was something that you did five days earlier." His apology was followed by a clip from March 6, 2008, in which Cramer roared, "I believe in the Bear franchise. You know what? At 69 bucks, I'm not giving up on the thing!"



 

 

Cramer ultimately decided to go on The Daily Show to debate Stewart face to face β€” a move he would later regret. For 15 long minutes, Cramer sat with little to say for himself as Stewart pummeled him. "I can't reconcile the brilliance and knowledge that you have of the intricacies of the market with the crazy... I see you do every night," Stewart told his guest. According to HuffPost, he added that while he and Cramer are both snake-oil salesmen, only his show is labeled as such. Aside from raising a few objections to Stewart's harsh criticism, Cramer mostly acknowledged that he could have done a better job foreseeing the economic collapse: "We all should have seen it more."



 

 

Cramer agreed that CNBC was "fair game" to the criticism and acknowledged that the network had perhaps been overeager to believe the information it received from corporations. "I, too, like you, want to have a successful show," he said. "Should we have been constantly pointing out the mistakes that were made? Absolutely. I truly wish we had done more." Speaking of the now infamous interview, Cramer later said: "It's unbelievable, I know, but I never saw it coming. The night before Stewart, a bartender in Brooklyn wished me luck, and I didn't get what he was talking about. I expected a cordial discussion."



 

 

"I should have known this was coming because of how vicious Stewart had been all week, but I really thought it was just going to be a friendly show," he added. "As soon as he started, I realized Stewart was on a mission to make me look like a clown. I didn't defend myself because I wasn't prepared. What was I supposed to do, talk about how often I had been right? Praise myself? Get mad? I was mad, but I didn't want to give the audience any blood. The national media said I got crushed, which I did, and made me into a buffoon. After the interview, people like that, total strangers, would come up to me and say, 'Jim, I'm sorry.' That made me feel horrible, people feeling sorry for me. For six months it was on my mind all the time."

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