New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Trial Practice


March 13th, 2009

The Cross-Examination of Jim Cramer

Around the country, Jon Stewart is winning plaudits for his devastating debate with Jim Cramer on The Daily Show, after a week of ripping CNBC up, down and sideways for their utter failure to see the Great Recession coming on, while claiming to be the experts of the financial world. Stewart is winning those plaudits (and perhaps an Emmy?) not just for the interview, but for a week-long skewering of financial talking heads who pretend to know the future of the markets.

But what I saw was not just good journalism — with the fake journalist giving a crushing lesson to the media on how it is supposed to be done — but a devastating cross-examination.

Stewart used the time-honored “prior inconsistent statement” to repeatedly compare Cramer’s statements today with ones he’s made in years gone by. In the courtroom, we usually do the confrontation with deposition transcripts, first nailing down the testimony today and then whipping out the old transcript to read. In the case of medical-blogger Flea, it was done with a prior inconsistent statement from his blog.

Stewart did it with video, and it was nothing less than brilliant. The sharp, twisting knife of a comedian will no doubt have a profound effect on the way business news gets reported on television in the future. While he was dead serious last night, it was certainly his prior comedic torching of Cramer and CNBC that set the stage.

When Stewart gets his Emmy for it, it will be well-earned.

See also:

“Stewart was as well prepared for the interview as any prosecutor, with video clips assembled to refute every excuse that Cramer might offer, turning an interview that initially looked like it might be a non-event into a relentless cross-examination that left Cramer deflated and obviously just hoping that it would all be over.”

6 thoughts on “The Cross-Examination of Jim Cramer

  1. I love Jon Stewart. But now everyone is complaining that these guys were too dumb to see it coming. When everyone is too dumb, when a lot of smart people have a stake in not being dumb, it has to make you wonder. How many editorials were there saying any of this stuff with in 2006? Not many people. Crossing people on their prior predictions? My gosh, can you imagine what they would do with, for example, the NFL pregame guys? Cross them on how they counted out Arizona and then make them seem so silly.

    Again, Jon Stewart was great. The things with that MSNBC trader guy (I forgot his name, his 15 minutes of fame is up) was even better). But there is a little shooting fish in a barrel thing going on there.

    20/20 “You guys were so dumb and I can attack you because I was not paying attention to these issues” is all the rage right now.

    Jon Stewart is an entertainer. He does not have to provide context. But there is context.
    # posted by Anonymous Ron Miller : March 13, 2009 4:42 PM

  2. The Jon Stewart piece was great, very funny in a tragic sort of way. Sometimes the truth hurts.
    # posted by Anonymous Bill Tilley : March 17, 2009 11:53 AM

  3. I had almost the exact same thought years ago when Connie Chung interviewed Gary Condit. Only in her case, she made him repeat his obviously rehersed story over and over.

    But of course there is a lesson in that, too. She made him look guilty as hell, but it is exceedingly clear that all he was guilty of was being a lech (and I am not sure he was even guilty of that). Which isn’t good. I mean, if i had a daughter, I would never let her intern in DC. But its not exactly the same ballpark, ya know?
    # posted by Anonymous A.W. : March 17, 2009 4:28 PM

  4. She made him look guilty as hell…

    One problem with TV interviews, as opposed to courtroom testimony, is that a little camera work often assists in making someone look guilty. For instance, there is the very tight close up of the face, which 60 MInutes seems to have loved using over the decades.

    So someone who is nervous about being on camera, or listening to an awkwardly worded question, may give the wrong impression just because the cameraman is zooming in.

    This, of course, was not an issue in the Stewart v. Cramer broadcast.
    # posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : March 17, 2009 8:39 PM

  5. I have often been frustrated by journalists who don’t seem to understand, or perhaps care, that a witness has failed to answer a question. You don’t have to be a lawyer to say “My question was…” or “That’s very interesting, but getting back to my question….” It is a little sad that an entertainer is showing the ‘real’ journalists what they should be doing.
    # posted by Blogger mythago : March 18, 2009 10:52 AM

  6. I have often been frustrated by journalists who don’t seem to understand, or perhaps care, that a witness has failed to answer a question.

    When I get the non-answer at trial, I try not to argue with the witness that they didn’t answer the question. Instead, I try to re-ask it word-for-word. And then do it again. The jury gets it. The understand evasiveness.

    But TV journalism doesn’t really have that luxury, due to sharp time constraints. And they should confront the interviewee with the “You didn’t answer the question” response.

    And the reason, I think, that many don’t, is that they are afraid that if they are tough, others won’t sit with them for future interviews. That’s why Larry King gets so many big interviews. He throws softballs and doesn’t push back with “You didn’t answer!”
    # posted by Blogger Eric Turkewitz : March 18, 2009 11:07 AM