Sexist banter on CNBC

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CNBC’s Dylan Ratigan likes to fashion himself the lone ranger of business news. A cowboy (he’s said to wear a ten-gallon hat when he’s not on the air) wrangling male viewers with his good ol’ boy wit and the women with his down home charm.

But he’s been doing his best lately to alienate female viewers.

On Friday morning’s edition of The Call, CNBC correspondent Melissa Francis, who was reporting on frenzied gasoline trading from NYMEX, asked Ratigan: “Is it as crazy on your exchange as it is here?”

Ratigan’s comeback: “I think if I was blond and beautiful I could draw a big crowd.”

Francis, visibly irked, responded: “That’s not what it is all about.”

Ratigan was obviously chastened, and (mercifully) put his locker room repartee on ice for the remainder of the broadcast.

CNBC had no comment.

Sadly, such comments are hardly atypical from Ratigan and his band of merry he-men.

Thursday on Fast Money – CNBC’s signature market broadcast which was recently shifted to the high-profile 5 p.m. time slot – Ratigan and Fast Money contributors Jeff Macke and Karen Finerman were discussing the upcoming auction season and Finerman’s adoration of investor Carl Icahn. 

Finerman apparently bought a painting of Icahn at auction, paying several hundred thousand dollars for it. (Finerman can afford it. She runs a multimillion dollar hedge fund). Icahn joined the conversation via phone – and that’s when Macke took the discussion down several notches by suggesting that Finerman would have paid considerably more for a naked portrait of Icahn.

“She would have gone $2 million for a nude, Carl,” said Macke.

To which Icahn responded: “I would have bid that for (Finerman).”

After more back and forth about Finerman’s crush, Ratigan closed by thanking Icahn for “playing with us.”

Is finance one of the last bastions of chauvinism in the American workplace?

On the newly launched Fox Business Network, Happy Hour hosts Rebecca Gomez and Cody Willard – who wears his hair long and tucked behind his ears – gleefully play up their eye-candy personae. 

On a recent installment of the show – which originates from Bulls and Bears pub in Manhattan – Gomez teased a segment about a banker-turned-chocolate maker with this bon mots: “We have some mouth watering treats next. And I’m not talking about Cody, girls.”

And last summer, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews sloppily leered at CNBC’s Erin Burnett while Burnett was delivering a brief about the sub-prime collapse for Matthew’s Hardball. The video – which has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube – shows Matthews imploring Burnett to “get a little closer to the camera…really close.”

When Burnett appears confused, Matthews disingenuously apologizes, telling her: “Just kidding…you look great. You’re a knockout."


Would Matthews have subjected NBC News’ Meredith Vieira – or Natalie Morales – to the same treatment?

Perhaps Ratigan is merely mirroring the patois of the milieu. But CNBC touts itself as the business news leader. So why is Ratigan (and CNBC) stooping to such lowest common denominator antics?

And how is it that Ratigan can say – on national television – things that could get any corporate manager fired or at the very least hauled in to human resources on a sexual harassment complaint?

More to the point, why should Francis, who graduated from Harvard and worked her way up through local stations, be subjected to such sophomoric comments? 

Finerman’s hedge fund, Metropolitan Capital Advisors, Inc, is said to be worth in excess of $400 million. 

She gamely plays along with the sexist banter, but she is nonetheless on CNBC to impart investment advice.

In a fawning profile of Ratigan in the New York Times that ran this summer, Jonathan Wald, senior vice president of business news at CNBC, described Ratigan thusly: “[He’s] the guy in the Porsche in the left lane going fast …the engine that powers it all.” 

(The Times article noted that Ratigan does indeed drive a Porsche. Which leads one to wonder: Is he one of those men who think horsepower impresses the ladies?)

Wald went on to say that Ratigan appeals to women, “not in a frat boy way, but he’s an attractive guy who smells of success.”

Perhaps Wald should watch his own network a little more closely.

Ratigan’s sexist remarks may not appeal to countless women viewers – including those on Wall Street – who are increasingly unwilling to turn the other cheek. 

The high-profile lawsuit against Bloomberg last month is only the latest in a string of sex bias cases in the financial sector indicating that business culture must fall into line with the rest of society. 

Presumably viewers – men and women – are watching CNBC because they want to be informed about the market and investing. 

Such witless banter does nothing to enhance Ratigan’s profile. If he can be so clueless about what constitutes appropriate line of discussion, why should viewers assume he can speak to anything else with authority?

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