Jon Stewart's Rick Santelli Moment
Jon Stewart had his own Howard Beale moment last night, although truth be told, such vociferous tongue-in-cheek displays are kind of his thing.
This particular rant, an 8-minute teardown of CNBC, was spurred by being stood up by CNBC’s Rick Santelli.
Santelli, you’ll recall, achieved media half life a couple weeks ago with his populist rant about the government’s plan to bail out home buyers.
“This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbors mortgages?” he yelled to the receptive audience of traders on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange.
Santelli was to appear on the Daily Show Wednesday night. He cancelled last Friday. Perhaps CNBC executives had a change of heart after Santelli started running his mouth about his newly acquired status as an enemy of the White House.
For the record, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs summed up Santelli’s soliloquy thusly: “I think that it’s tremendously important that for people who rant on cable television - to be responsible and understand what it is they’re talking about. I feel assured that Mr. Santelli doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Which prompted Santelli to tell G. Gordon Liddy that he was taking “pressure” and “heat” from the administration. He confided to another radio host, Mike Gallagher, that he was scared. But Santelli was forced to awkwardly clarify his statements when pressed by Today’s Matt Lauer. Apparently, it was Gibbs’ “body language” that made the little hairs on the back of Santelli’s neck stand on end. (Now, Gibbs may be above average in size, but his doughy physique and southern drawl don’t exactly liken him to Dirty Harry.)
It is Stewart Santelli should have been wary of. The Daily Show host unspooled a highlight reel of CNBC’s missteps including Jim Cramer’s infamous endorsement of Bear Stearns (”Bear Stearns is fine…Bear Stearns is not in trouble”) and an old Carl Quintanilla interview with Sir Allen Stanford, the Texas billionaire accused of perpetrating a financial fraud “of a shocking magnitude” with “tentacles throughout the world,” according to the SEC.
“Is it fun being a billionaire?” asked Quintanilla.
“Well yes,” admitted Sir Allen. “I have to say it is fun being a billionaire.”
To which Stewart responded: “F— you! You know, between the two of them I can’t decide which one of those guys I’d rather see in jail.”
Wild applause from the Daily Show studio audience.
The clip of Santelli’s rant is still making the rounds. And his original sentiment has gained political traction. Populist Tea Party protests have cropped up in Washington. But Santelli’s subsequent media tour and his fade on Stewart are lessons in what not to do with your 15 minutes.
Didn’t he learn anything from David Letterman’s skewering of John McCain when the then presidential candidate cancelled a planned appearance on Late Show last fall? McCain’s excuse: he had to rush back to Washington to deal with the gathering financial storm.
But he didn’t go back to Washington. Letterman showed video of McCain getting his pate powdered on the set of the CBS Evening News - long after McCain should have been on the Acela to DC.
Stewart and Letterman are comedians after all. Crossing them is sort of like sitting in the front row of Lenny Bruce show with a big bull’s eye on your forehead.