Jon Stewart Indicts CNBC, CNN

Jon Stewart is either an idiot or an ironic genius. Perhaps both.

On Thursday, the host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show welcomed to his show special guest Gerri Willis, CNN's personal-finance editor, offering two incentives to get her on board. First, the chance to plug her Saturday morning show on the Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) subsidiary. Second, an invitation to bash a couple of CNN rivals, GE (NYSE: GE  ) stepchild CNBC and News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) scion Fox Business Channel.

As it turned out, Fox escaped from the interview virtually unscathed, mentioned only obliquely. CNBC wasn't so fortunate, as Stewart pulled two clips from the network and invited Willis to twist in the knife. Here's how it went down:

"Bald guy" on Fast Money: "We opened down 500-odd points on the Dow Jones. That was a great moment to start covering those shorts and take a shot on the long side."

Stewart: [Repeats quote, slowly, then asks]: "Is that gibberish?"

Willis: "Well, yeah. Yeah. ..."

Stewart: "But what he's saying is we're down 500 points -- bet that we're going to lose some more. Is that what he was saying?"

Willis: "Yes, exactly. He's betting against the market. He's saying: 'I'm betting against the stock market. Stocks, the U.S. economy -- we don't like it. We're betting against it.'"

Stewart: "Can these networks help us? Can they help us understand [what's going on with the economy]?"

Allow me to kibbitz
Apparently not. I've corresponded with a lot of our readers here on, and at the risk of pandering, I have to say: You're a pretty sharp crowd. I'm willing to bet a good 98% of you who read "Bald guy's" blurb understood on the first read-through that he was not saying anything like what both Stewart, and Willis, apparently heard. To the contrary, "bald guy" said the opposite -- that after a sharp market drop, it was time to stop betting against the market and buy up some cheap stocks. You got that, right?

I thought so.

The real irony here is that Stewart actually managed to prove his point, albeit accidentally. Despite having hours, perhaps days, to parse "bald guy's" statement, he ultimately came up with gibberish. That's probably forgivable in a comedy host, but I'm amazed that CNN's "Personal Finance Editor" could listen to the same statement -- twice! -- and still wind up getting it 100% wrong.

Kind of makes you wonder whether the talking heads on TV are a case of the blind leading the 20/20-sighted. But it does give us a pretty clear answer to Stewart's question: Can these networks help us understand what's going on with the economy?

Answer: Nope. Not if they can't figure it out themselves.

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