Why Is Everybody Picking on Jim Cramer?

I never thought I'd say this, but poor Jim Cramer.

Ever since late-night comedian Jon Stewart ripped into CNBC last week -- singling out some of the horrendous market calls on the business network over the past year -- Cramer has emerged as Public Pinata No. 1.

The problem with Cramer is that he's a moth to publicity's flame. Instead of letting Stewart's parade of embarrassing CNBC video clips -- most of them unrelated to Cramer -- rest, TheStreet.com's (Nasdaq: TSCM  ) fiery rock star took to the airwaves to defend himself. This has only escalated matters, and now Cramer will face off with Stewart on The Daily Show tonight.

"Jackpot," Cramer is probably thinking, with a shot to redeem himself and win over a new audience.

"Idiot," I say, fully aware of the trap that he is about to step into.

The Daily Show isn't just a misnomer because it's on four nights a week
Stewart, I'm sorry to say, is a financial ignoramus. His comedic timing and satirical jabs are impeccable, but he couldn't dollar-cost average his way out of a wet paper bag.

Stewart has screwed up before when he ripped into Cramer last year. He and his guest completely misinterpreted the meaning of short covering. After playing a clip that had the "Baron of Boo-yah!" saying that it was a "great moment to start covering those shorts and take a shot on the long side," they inexplicably concluded that Cramer was betting on stocks to head lower.

Cue the Mess-Up-otamia graphic!

It's the stupid, economy.

Stewart and his writers blew it again this time. They rightfully found clips of Cramer pumping shares of Bear Stearns shortly before last year's collapse, but then they seemed to conclude that Bear Stearns was acquired by JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM  ) for $2 a share.

Nope. The investment banking giant quickly sweetened its bid to $10 a share. It was still a brutal swan song for Bear Stearns, but if you're going to skewer the news, at least get your source material right.

Hit me up. I'll proofread the financial zingers for free so you don't fire blanks next time.

The fling of all media
At its heart, this is a battle between two media giants. CNBC majority parent General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) has had no problem sending Cramer on a redemptive publicity tour through its media properties over the past few days. Stewart was waving his Viacom (NYSE: VIA  ) flag Tuesday night.

Cramer thinks having a few extra spotlights on him are great. Just wait until he wakes up Friday morning, shuffles off to the bathroom, and sees Octomom staring back at him in the mirror.

He doesn't get it. When Rick Santelli bowed out of his appearance on The Daily Show -- leaving the show with little to do but go on its rant against CNBC's biggest blunders -- he knew what was coming. The hero worship would end once Stewart exposed Santelli's speculative underbelly.

Cramer doesn't seem to realize he's RSVP'ing to his own crucifixion.

When you're a financial pundit, you're going to be wrong. You're going to make bad calls. Just because you're given the national stage to defend yourself doesn't mean you should take the stand, especially when Bear Stearns is really just the tip of the iceberg.

See, Cramer's biggest problem isn't just that he's human so he's occasionally wrong. No, his Achilles' heel is that he has more turns than a NASCAR speedway. He can probably dig into his bag and find clips where he was bearish on Bear Stearns before the meltdown. It wouldn't surprise me.

Three years ago, I wrote one of the first articles that were critical of Cramer's on-air flip flops. In Cramer vs. Cramer, I took a look at how he would move investors in and out of Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG  ) , where the less dizzying "buy and hold" approach would have produced far superior returns.

I decided to consume a week's worth of Mad Money last month. It didn't take long for charismatic Cramer to turn on a single stock mid-show. My observations from the first episode I saw:

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of consistency in his advice. Earlier in the show he rates Visa (NYSE: V  ) as a "solid buy" right now and a "screaming buy" if it dips below $50. Later in the show, a caller wants to know about MasterCard (NYSE: MA  ) . Cramer retreats. "Both MA and Visa have spiked," he says, reaching for a cash register sound effect. "When things spike in the market, we have to wait for it to come down."

Yes, he turned on Visa in a matter of minutes. It went from "buy, buy, buy!" to "bye, bye, bye!"

It didn't take me long to find that single nugget. Just because Stewart's crack crew has been sloppy in the past doesn't mean that they can't redeem themselves and find real poison to smear on their arrowheads this time.

Don't do it, Jimbo
In defense of Cramer, I don't want to see him get mauled. As the poster child for financial journalism, if his ambassadorial skills take an uppercut to the face, we're all yelling "cut me, Mickey" after a losing round.

Cramer may come off as a brash loudmouth, but the guy has done more than any other financial talking head to get the masses excited about the market. And lately he has even beefed up the educational components of his show, and that's huge from a guy who often boils down due diligence to a soundboard button.

So I guess my pro bono offer applies to Cramer as well. Hit me up and bulletproof your armor.

However, my real advice would be to run. Don't let the public find new reasons to dislike you. You've got eight babies to feed. You don't need to be Angelina.

Other ways to brush up before the inevitable showdown:

JPMorgan Chase is a former Income Investor pick. Intuitive Surgical is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is an occasional fan of Cramer and a perpetual fan of Stewart. Rick own shares of Intuitive Surgical. He's also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (28) | Recommend This Article (46)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 10:47 AM, SpamtheSeal wrote:

    If you want to be the face of Wall Street, you have to like the taste of egg.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 10:47 AM, catoismymotor wrote:

    Rick,

    Have you thought about offering yourself up as a guest for the Daily Show? You have a good head on your shoulders, are able to communicate effectively and have a good sense of humor. You could do more in a three minute interview to educate their viewers about investing than Mr. Cramer could in a month. I think you stand a great chance of getting on the show because of your anti-Cramer leanings and the fact that like you, they love to tell the Emperor that he has no clothes.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 11:04 AM, ryanalexanderson wrote:

    The Daily Show's primary angle is not that Cramer miscalled Bear Sterns or anything else; it's that MSNBC deifies Cramer. "In Cramer We Trust", and all that.

    Jon has acknowledged that he doesn't know anything about investing. But he's right to skewer MSNBC for such a ridiculous portrayal of Cramer, who blurs the line between news and entertainment just as Stewart does. The difference is, Stewart explicitly disclaims credibility. Cramer and MSNBC don't. They want the public to trust Cramer. Invest with Cramer. -Believe- in Cramer.

    Indeed, several Motley Fool articles over the last few years have express the exact same sentiment as Stewart, that this trust is a bad idea. Cramer is an entertainer! And a damn good one. (But not in Stewart's league!)

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 11:25 AM, jmt587 wrote:

    All I know is, I can't wait to see the Daily Show tonight.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 11:26 AM, LouAT wrote:

    Totally agree with Ryan’s comment. However, loyal viewers of the Daily Show know that Jon tends to be pretty gracious to guests who are courageous enough to confront him after they’ve been called out on his show. His segments tend to be a lot more biting than his interviews, and while I think Jim Cramer was stupid to parade and defend himself on his network’s shows – just antagonizing Stewart and his writers – I think it’s actually pretty smart of him to confront Stewart head on to regain some dignity. Should be entertaining…

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 11:41 AM, earthStrapped wrote:

    Let me just add that while I fully believe in the market's wealth building potential, and notionally in the idea that this is achievable for the masses, I think it must be said that most of the efforts to bring the masses to the market have been led by those with the hope of profiteering. I'm not even sure this site deserves immunity from this criticism. Despite a wealth of informative material and guidance, I consistently find a dearth of restraint in the marketing tools used to attract new customers, something I find somewhat appalling.

    Most people have the same sense or less about the markets as Mr. Stewart, and they'd undoubtedly be better off seeking an independent FA to guide them then trying to go it alone, particularly those who don't have time on their sides as they struggle to survive while learning the ropes.

    The real critique as I see it, should not even be that MSNBC employs a fair number of idiot-pundents, but that the one-sided fantasy that the market is the rightful home for every Tom, Dick, and Harriet's retirement dollars should be reexamined. The direct involvement of the public in the markets has, in my view, increased the potential for the irrational markets. Perhaps a public, driven by sentiment, influenced by media, driven by profit, responsible to shareholders, who include the public, creates a closed-loop system that will continue to see wildly high volatility. I for one, believe that the markets ought to be much more regulated, that impedances to capital or growth aren't always a bad thing, and that a news media that once again serves the public interest rather than the shareholder portfolio must be a top reform priority.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 12:12 PM, avgbody wrote:

    This is Jon Stewert, rarely does he act tough to guest on the show. I'm sure this will be a cake walk for Jim, as long as he has a funny bone.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 2:26 PM, gloombergnews wrote:

    THE ORIGINAL UFC FIGHT NIGHT!

    Cramer vs. Stewart Promo Poster!

    http://gloombergnews.com/?p=470

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 2:28 PM, Amadeo78 wrote:

    @ avgbody

    I'd tell you to check out his interview of Scott McClellan. He was gliding through the media with his book, but Stewart, while not mean, didn't go easy on him. Instead of just calling him brave or bold....he basically asked, "well, weren't you part of the administration?" I was only surprised because on most of the shows he was a guest on, no one had tried to challenge him.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 2:56 PM, LouAT wrote:

    avgbody is right. Jim will only look bad if he takes himself too seriously. If he's a good sport and can poke a bit of fun at himself, he'll come out fine.

    BUT, on the other hand, he might be enjoying the publicity...and wants it to last during sweeps...so he may not want to nip this

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 4:43 PM, PauvrePapillon wrote:

    It's not Cramer's stock picking abilities (or lack thereof) that has put him on the drive-by media's enemies list.

    It's his (true) statement that the Fibpotus is the greatest destroyer of wealth of all time.

    Cramer, by the way, is a liberal (though, in the minds of many, not sufficiently loyal) Democrat.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 4:43 PM, rusty1948 wrote:

    Cramer didn't make a bad call on Bear Stearns. He was used by that company to falsely report information.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 4:49 PM, McCrikey wrote:

    Win ratings by being psycho, lose ratings by being psycho.

    I would rather enjoy seeing him homeless and begging in the street and/or institutionalized.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 6:48 PM, thedofca100 wrote:

    RULE #1:

    Never pick a verbal fight with a comedian.

    RULE #2

    Never fight anyone who is on a network that can say F. U. if you can't say it on your network.

    Cramer will do fine. Either he will get ever more publicity by being a jerk, or somebody will have told him to get a sense of humor, and we will start to enjoy him. It's a no lose for both of the boys.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 10:28 PM, smaulcap wrote:

    I like Cramer, he's a good guy. Wall Street is not too keen on Cramer. Because he calls Wall Street as he sees it. He's not afraid to call a thief a thief and a liar a liar. Cramer blows their cover. He reveals the tricks and deceptions of Wall Street. Cramer tells the public (AKA "losers" by Santelli) what to look out for when dealing with Wall Street and the markets. He sometimes exposes the dirty side of wall street, and Wall Street doesn't like that.

    Cramer is getting picked on because of his whining and bad mouthing of the President. Am I the first to figure that out? Cramer is kicking and stamping his feet, like the rest of Wall Street and CNBC. They want attention, like spoiled children. Didn't you see Santelli's shameless plea to the President for help? That's just what Santelli was doing, reaching out for attention. That's what his shrink would say, if he has one. If he doesn't he should. So......John Stewart and a few of his buddy comedians are going to make life miserable for the creeps on Wall Street and CNBC because they push too hard on the President. Cramer can handle Stewart. I like Cramer. Good showman and teacher.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 11:31 PM, chuck245 wrote:

    as usual daily show waste of time, cramer didn't see this blow up coming -WOW suprise- who did? not me, not motley fool, who did?

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 11:36 PM, JibJabs wrote:

    I thought it was a very respectful but biting show for Cramer. He seemed chastened. It will be interesting to see if he moderates his tone on the show a bit now- I would tune in more regularly if he educated more and yelled less. The potential is there- maybe this was a wakeup call.

    Eh- who the hell am I kidding. Ratings are king.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 11:56 PM, japhy1005 wrote:

    This is why I have never signed up for your premium stuff. You don't know s**t.

    Jon Stewart just made whale sperm out of Cramer. Can you spell muckracker? Jon Stewart is an American hero. Cramer cracked, and all but admitted that CNBC is in the pocket of high finance and their gig is cheerleading for the benefit of Wall Street. Cramer's career is over. His downfall is CNBC's as well. Good riddance.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 12:04 AM, TMFBreakerRick wrote:

    japhy1005, Stewart did nail Cramer tonight.

    That said, what is it about my article that seemed ignorant to you? I was essentially telling Cramer to stay away because this is exactly what could have -- and did -- happen.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 12:31 AM, japhy1005 wrote:

    "Stewart, I'm sorry to say, is a financial ignoramus. His comedic timing and satirical jabs are impeccable, but he couldn't dollar-cost average his way out of a wet paper bag."

    Stewart knows what he needs to know. He doesn't need to be a financial genius to know we are getting f**ked. He also knows the power of his medium as well as anyone since George Carlin.

    We know no better populist than Jon Stewart, but we make him mask it as comedy.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 12:43 AM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    For those of you who think Cramer is a great guy, watch this video in which he seems to admit to very bad behavior....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfWSRuNm6do

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 12:57 AM, daninkeller wrote:

    You are right, Cramer was outgunned by Stewart who (can you say liberal) talked over Cramer most of the time. This wasn't a debate, it was a rant. I wish Cramer had a least forced his way in to make his points, or left the set.

    I've found that Cramer's market - aware buy and homework strategy nicely balances us Fools - company oriented homework and buy approach... Both have been deadly wrong, but not most of the time.

    Stewarts no hero, and Cramer's no debater.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 3:10 AM, Verbosity wrote:

    Admittedly, I am a Daily Show fan; however, I also enjoy watching Mad Money. Nevertheless, I was a bit troubled when Jon Stewart played the video clips of Jim Cramer discussing how to manipulate stocks and create Wall Street rumors to make a quick buck while he was a hedge-fund manager a few years ago. You could almost see the blood drain from Cramer’s face.

    Cramer did not defend himself, which is admirable. However, this causes SERIOUS CREDIBILITY ISSUES with Cramer—at least in my mind. How do I know that Cramer is not trying to line his or his friend’s pockets when he makes a recommendation? Can I really continue to trust him?

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 5:30 AM, HackMage wrote:

    First off I'm a fan of both shows. They are both educational and entertaining in their own rights. Stewart pointed out the fallacy that is financial reporting in this world, just as he has with 90% of the other reporting now. The news is filled with stories of kidnappings and celebrity felonies and no real news. I learn more from The Daily Show than the Nightly news. That goes double for financial reporting.

    How come I learned far more about this whole mess from the completely FREE Chicago Public Radio's "This American Life" than I ever did from CNBC? Why the *uck has CNBC completely dropped the ball on the greatest financial crisis ever? That should be their money maker. This SHOULD be their bread and butter, covering this whole entire mortgage mess. Instead I get Rick Santelli screaming his lungs out a year after the fact, whereTF was he a year ago? Altho in his defense he did say that LEH, BSC, AIG and all the others should fail, let capitalism sort them out. WTF does he care? He's a friggin bond trader.. Oh snap, the whole entire financial world is melting down, guess I should be heavy into the dollar, lawl. Try the Yuan.

    How come Peter Schiff was never on CNBC before this whole mess started? How come NO ONE on CNBC has ever taken the contrarian view of Schiff or Leeb? How come when Kudlow introduces Schiff he promotes "The small book of bull moves in bear markets" and not "Crashproof"? How come I've never seen Leeb on CNBC? Has no one on that network ever read any of their books? No offense but the viewership gets what they deserve if they don't have more stringent requirements on their reporters.

    BTW the CPR link for anyone interested:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio_episode.aspx?sched=124...

    Matt

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 5:48 AM, bmialone wrote:

    Stewart doesn't need to be a financial whiz because he is a comedian hosting a fake news show. He reminds his audience that it is a fake news show.

    Having said that, however, Stewart is intelligent and well-informed on many topics, including his point regarding Cramer's network. It poses as a news source and finance advice source, yet it is actually neither. It has served only as a shill for the same forces that have robbed the rest of the country blind at the same time they headed overseas to lure the citizens of emerging financial empires into debt while their own few have been gaining most of the wealth.

    The Daily Show creamed Cramer tonight, even as Stewart was his usual gracious self. Cramer wasn't out talked, he just didn't attempt to say much but the same sort of smoke screen, mumbo jumbo about what he's been doing and what his intent is. He actually lied about having engaged in unethical trading only to have Stewart show tapes of him claiming he had and offering advice on how to do so. Thus, he had little to say that would hold any water, and he figured that out quickly.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 8:41 AM, MPov wrote:

    Commercial "news" programming is entertainment, pure and simple. CNBC is entertainment, ABC, CBS and NBC news is entertainment, FOX, CNN, etc. - entertainment (don't even get me started on local news shows!). Any resemblance to actual news is purely coincidental. These are for-profit companies. They have one interest - ratings, because ratings lead advertising sales, which is their source of revenue.

    Of course CNBC and other news netwroks were not doing a good job of pointing out problems in the markets. These problems are complicated. They are difficult for the average viewer to understand, and even more difficult to explain. What's more, until there is an actual problem, discussion of these problems in any sort of detail is BORING! Much better to show Jim Cramer touting stocks and throwing bulls at the camera - that's entertainment!

    I don't get my news from commercial television. I support PBS. I read the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal. I want in-depth coverage of the stories I am interested in, not soundbites from TV networks dumb down things for their audience.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2009, at 9:54 AM, overley wrote:

    Cramer deserved to be taken behind the woodshed. I feel sorry for the folks that actually take him seriously. Cramer is a clown, and CNBC should be ashamed for even putting him on air. Shows like his and fast money are irresponsible, and I suspect that these guys are manipulating the market for the own self interests. Stewart was pointing out that if people actually take his song and dance seriously, they could face financial ruin, so he should present his show as entertainment and not respectable commentary. Should you really be recommending stocks without knowing someones financial situation.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2009, at 2:28 PM, JackChampain wrote:

    I thought the best point Stewart made was something that TMFs like Rick would agree with; that hard-working, everyday, middle class Americans buying into the buy & hold strategy of investing are capitalizing the speculative adventures of high risk traders. Stewart said there are 2 markets, the long-term buy & hold market of folklore that we hear from the fool, peter lynch and warren buffet and also the shady market of derivatives, CDS, and obscenely leveraged bets from unregulated hedge funds and other 'pools of money'. CNBC and the rest if the so-called financial media seem to turn a blind eye toward this risky, shadowy predatory market that has very real and very negative effects on the 'real' market where we do our best to focus on fundamentals and buy & hold solid companies for the long term. TMF's defense of Jim Cramer's ilk is inexplicable to me.....

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