NEW YORK – Jon Stewart hammered Jim Cramer and his network, CNBC, in their anticipated face-off on "The Daily Show," repeatedly chastising the "Mad Money" host for putting entertainment above journalism.
"I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a ... game," Stewart told Cramer, adding in an expletive during the show's Thursday taping. The episode was scheduled to air at 11 p.m. EDT on Comedy Central.
It was perhaps the hardest lashing Stewart has given to a TV commentator since 2004 when he called Tucker Carlson and his then co-host Paul Begala "partisan hacks" on CNN's "Crossfire," the since canceled political commentary program.
The program opened in mock hype of the confrontation, which caught headlines through the week as each snipped at the other over the air. The show announced it as "the weeklong feud of the century."
In his opening, Stewart announced that it was "go time." He played a video clip of Cramer's Thursday guest appearance on "The Martha Stewart Show" in which Cramer beat a mound of dough, pretending it was Stewart.
Said Stewart: "Mr. Cramer, don't you destroy enough dough on your own show?"
Once Cramer came out for the interview, Stewart wondered: "How the hell did we get here?"
Cramer, his sleeves characteristically rolled up, said he was a "fan of the show."
But the humorous tone — at least for Stewart — changed as the interview continued.
Stewart repeatedly said Cramer wasn't his target, but aired clip after clip of the CNBC pundit.
"Roll 210!" announced Stewart, like a prosecutor. "Roll 212!"
Most were from a 2006 interview not meant for TV in which Cramer spoke openly about the duplicity of the market.
"I can't reconcile the brilliance and knowledge that you have of the intricacies of the market with the crazy ... I see you do every night," said the comedian.
Stewart said he and Cramer are both snake-oil salesman, only "The Daily Show" is labeled as such. He claimed CNBC shirked its journalistic duty by believing corporate lies, rather than being an investigative "powerful tool of illumination." And he alleged CNBC was ultimately in bed with the businesses it covered — that regular people's stocks and 401Ks were "capitalizing on your adventure."
For his part, Cramer disagreed with Stewart on a few points, but mostly acknowledged that he could have done a better job foreseeing the economic collapse: "We all should have seen it more."
Cramer said CNBC was "fair game" to the criticism and acknowledged the network was perhaps overeager to believe the information it was fed from corporations.
"I, too, like you, want to have a successful show," said Cramer, defending his methods on "Mad Money." He later added: "Should we have been constantly pointing out the mistakes that were made? Absolutely. I truly wish we had done more."
Cramer insisted he was devoted to revealing corporate "shenanigans," to which Stewart retorted: "It's easy to get on this after the fact."
At one point, Cramer sounded the reformed sinner, responding to Stewart's plea for more levelheaded, honest commentary: "How about I try that?" said Cramer. "I'll do that."
By the end, the two-segment interview went far beyond its allotted time. Comedy Central said the on-air version would be cut by about eight minutes, though the entire interview would be available unedited on ComedyCentral.com on Friday.