NEW YORK – Martha Stewart predicted Tuesday that the investigation of her stock dealings will be resolved and "I will be exonerated of any ridiculousness" — and returned to the salad she was preparing on-screen.
CBS host Jane Clayson introduced Stewart's weekly segment on "The Early Show" with a summary of events surrounding Stewart's sale of ImClone stock.
CBS said Stewart agreed to discuss the stock sale in order to appear on the show.
Stewart, methodically slicing the makings of a potluck salad, tried immediately to turn the subject to food, saying: "Hi, well, if we're going to make salad ..." But Clayson stayed with the question of Stewart's stock, asking her to comment.
"Well, as you understand, I'm involved in an investigation that has very serious implications," Stewart said. "I'm not at liberty at this time to make any comments whatsovever."
Stewart, the home design and decorating diva, has been under intense scrutiny for selling nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems Inc. (IMCL) on Dec. 27, just one day before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected the biotech company's experimental cancer treatment.
Shares of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) have tumbled 34 percent since June 6, when reports of her ImClone trading surfaced. The stock slumped to an historic low Monday, when it fell as much as $4.10, or 26 percent, to $11.87 on the New York Stock Exchange, reaching its lowest point since going public in late 1999. The stock, the NYSE's biggest loser for the day, closed down $3.42, or 21 percent, at $12.55. It recovered somewhat, rising 2 percent to $12.80 on on Tuesday.
'I Want to Focus on My Salad'
Analysts said the stock was down because Peter Bacanovic, Stewart's stockbroker, and Douglas Faneuil, a sales associate, were placed on administrative leave by Merrill Lynch & Co. Friday. Faneuil has provided information that led the brokerage to doubt that a stop-loss order, which Stewart claims was previously arranged, ever existed, according to newspaper reports.
Asked if actions by her stockbroker might complicate her situation, Stewart said, "I think this will all be resolved in the very near future and I will be exonerated of any ridiculousness."
Stewart said she would go ahead with her business, and that "I want to focus on my salad, because that's why we're here."
Asked once again what effect the stock sale has had, Stewart replied: "When I was a model -- and I was all during high school and college -- you always wanted to be on the cover of a magazine. That's how your success was judged -- the more covers the better. Well, I am the CEO of a New York Stock Exchange-listed company and I don't want to be on any covers of any newspapers for a long, long time. That's the story. Thank you very much."
Stewart has been romantically linked to Sam Waksal, the former chief executive of ImClone, who was arrested June 12 and charged with conspiracy, securities fraud and perjury involving an alleged insider trading scheme in ImClone shares.
Stewart has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying in a statement she had no inside information and did not speak to Waksal before selling her ImClone shares.
Ceramic Pots Recalled
Meanwhile, about 80,000 ceramic potpourri simmering pots sold under the Martha Stewart Everyday brand are being recalled because they could burn consumers.
Cincinnati-based Candle-lite has received nine reports of tea lights inside the pots overheating, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Tuesday. One consumer received minor burns while attempting to extinguish a tea light, the agency said.
The recalled potpourri pots are white with six-sides and measure about 6 inches high. The base is the tea light candleholder. The pot is placed on the base to heat the potpourri and water mixture inside. The lid to the pot has six holes to let the heated mixtures aroma escape.
A label on the bottom of the base reads, "MADE IN CHINA."
Kmart sold the pots from September 2001 through March 2002 for about $5.
The safety commission said consumers should stop using the pots and for information on refunds call Candle-lite at 1-800-718-7151 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. EDT Monday through Friday.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.