If you make a date to be on a late-night talk show, it's best not to back out.
John McCain learned that lesson the hard way with David Letterman last fall, and CNBC reporter Rick Santelli just took it on the chin from Jon Stewart. Santelli and his network wouldn't comment Thursday on Stewart's brutal takedown during Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" on Wednesday.
Santelli became an instant online star when millions of people watched copies of his CNBC criticism that President Barack Obama's housing plan was "promoting bad behavior" by rewarding people who might otherwise be foreclosed. He was booked to appear on Stewart's show Wednesday.
But he backed out Friday, with CNBC spokesman Brian Steel saying that "we all made a decision it was just time to move on to the next story."
Said Stewart: "I guess the phrase would be bailed out."
During a report at the Chicago Board of Trade on Feb. 19, Santelli turned to those around him: "This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?"
When the traders began booing, Santelli said, "President Obama, are you listening?"
"How many people would have liked to see Rick Santelli on this program," Stewart echoed on "The Daily Show," his audience responding with a cheer. "Are you listening? Are you listening, Rick Santelli?
"I have to say I find cheap populism oddly arousing," Stewart said.
Stewart then turned to CNBC itself, airing a selection of clips from personalities like Jim Cramer giving opinions and predictions about the economy that in retrospect looked spectacularly ill-informed.
"If I had only followed CNBC's advice, I'd have a million dollars today," Stewart said, "provided I'd started with $100 million."
CNBC's Steel said neither the network's executives nor Santelli would comment on Stewart's broadcast.
Last September, McCain canceled an appearance on Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS, saying he had to rush to Washington to help deal with the sinking economy. But the then Republican presidential candidate didn't rush back, instead going to an interview with Katie Couric the "CBS Evening News," and Letterman wouldn't let him forget it.
He was merciless in his comedic attacks, during a crucial point in the campaign, forcing McCain to return three weeks later and acknowledge that he made a mistake.
Santelli and CNBC initially sought more attention for his self-described "rant," and some saw him as a hero. After Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs fought back, Santelli said he felt threatened.
NBC colleague Matt Lauer, speaking to Santelli on the "Today" show on Feb. 26, was skeptical. "He wasn't threatening you," Lauer said.
The next day, CNBC and Santelli decided it was time to move on.
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