Jon Stewart rips into Santelli, CNBC

CNBC reporter Rick Santelli may have been brave enough to talk about a revolt against the Obama administration's proposal to help homeowners, but apparently he's afraid to face Jon Stewart.

Santelli, whose reports from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are as close to street theater as the General Electric Co. (GE) network gets, canceled his scheduled appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" without explanation. The normally affable Stewart was incensed -- but instead of getting mad, he got even by giving the most scathing critique of CNBC I have ever seen.

"Rick Santelli is angry that these loser homeowners are going to be bailed out," Stewart said. "For God's sake, this guy works at CNBC, the best of the best . . .''

Well, as the comedian pointed out, it's not exactly clear what CNBC does so well. He ran some clips (some of which, to be fair, may have been taken out of context ) showing that the business news channel has aired loads of misleading or just plain old wrong news analysis during the economic crisis. Jim Cramer's famously boneheaded call on Bear Stearns is included but so are lesser known gems such as Larry Kudlow saying the worst of the subprime mortgage mess is over.

A CNBC spokesman couldn't be reached for comment. Santelli did not respond to a voice mail and an email.

But my favorite moment from the Stewart montage was Carl Quintanilla's interview with Allen Stanford, in which he spoke of how the Texan had generated above average returns. In closing, Quintanilla asked Stanford whether it was "fun" to be a billionaire. Shockingly, the answer is "yes."

It's little wonder that Santelli was a no-show. Santelli's Feb. 19 diatribe -- which some on the right have likened to a Howard Beale-like "I am mad as hell and can't take it any more" moment -- has become the hottest thing to hit the blogosphere since the octo-mom. Some have speculated that Santelli's rant was staged, a claim he has denied.

Santelli has appeared uncomfortable with his new celebrity. But by sticking his neck out, then pulling it back, he is only inviting more criticism. President Obama's spokesman has already accused Santelli of not knowing what he was talking about. Stewart's criticism, though, was more damaging.

"Wow, if I'd only followed CNBC's advice, I'd have $1 million today -- provided I'd started with $100 million," joked Stewart. "I can see why Santelli is mad at homeowners.''

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