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Economy not small issue in deepening Stewart-CNBC feud

NEW YORK – Jon Stewart didn't take kindly to CNBC pundit Jim Cramer dismissing his Comedy Central program as a mere "variety show."

"You make me sound like I'm some kind of buffoon, just flapping my arms with crazy buttons and wacky sound effects," the host of "The Daily Show" said Tuesday night. He then cut to a clip of Cramer on his CNBC show "Mad Money," punching buttons that make wacky sound effects.

Ouch.

It was the latest thrust in what has become a full-blown media feud between the two, spawned by the ongoing economic crisis. Earlier Tuesday, Cramer accused Stewart of cherry-picking stock calls he made during a bull market to wrongly suggest that he misled the public about the health of the economy. Stewart jabbed back on his show, dubbing their war of words "Cramer vs. Not Cramer: Basic Cable Personality Clash Skirmish '09!"

Stewart's retort won't be the final words on the subject: Cramer has agreed to go on "The Daily Show" on Thursday to confront his rival in person.

The sardonic comedian and kinetic former hedge fund manager may make for an odd pair. But the tussle between the two television personalities reflects a larger debate raging about whether the  media did an adequate job covering the lead-up to the recession.

CNBC, the most prominent business news network, has come in for a large share of criticism that the media failed to alert the public to Wall Street's precarious footing.

One of the most outspoken critics has been Stewart, who savaged the cable channel last week with an eight-minute segment that strung together some of the most bullish remarks made by the network's anchors and pundits in the past two years.

"If I'd only followed CNBC's advice, I'd have a million dollars today -- provided I'd started with a hundred million dollars," Stewart quipped.

Cramer played a recurring role in Stewart's mash-up.

"Bear Stearns is fine!" he shouted in his trademark bellow in one clip, less than a week before the investment house went under. "Bear Stearns is not in trouble."

CNBC has remained mum about Stewart's jibes. (On Tuesday, a spokesman declined to comment on criticism of the network's coverage.) But Cramer, one of the channel's best-known personalities, is fighting back.

In a column posted Monday on MainStreet.com, he complained that Stewart took his words out of context. He wasn't urging people to buy Bear Stearns stock, Cramer noted, but was simply reassuring viewers that money in Bear Stearns accounts was safe.

"The absurdity astounds me," Cramer wrote of Stewart's critique.

Stewart responded on Monday's episode of "The Daily Show," offering up a partial mea culpa.

"Jim Cramer, I apologize," he said. "You weren't suggesting to buy Bear Stearns.

"That was something that you did five days earlier," he added gleefully, before airing yet another clip from March 2008, in which Cramer roared, "I believe in the Bear franchise. You know what? At 69 bucks, I'm not giving up on the thing!"

Cramer fired back Tuesday during back-to-back appearances on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and NBC's "Today."

"Oh, oh, a comedian is attacking me!" he said mockingly on "Today."

"Did I make a mistake?" Cramer added. "First of all, any time you recommend a stock and it goes down, you've made a mistake. Here's a shocker: Almost every stock is down! Any stock you recommended is bad. You know, Warren Buffett, I could run tapes from him, he would look like acomplete fool."

The "Mad Money" host noted that Stewart has not spotlighted Cramer's appearance on "Today" in October, when he caused a stir by saying people should sell and get out of the market.

"That was 35 percent ago," Cramer said. "That was a call that should have wrecked my career. And it would have, if the market had gone up. But I stuck my neck out and did it and saved a lot of people money."

The CNBC host largely found support for his position among his colleagues on "Morning Joe," although co-host Mika Brzezinski pressed him about Stewart's point.

"Look, Cramer, we all have been trying our best to cover the story, but didn't CNBC play a role in sort of being off?" she asked.

"I've made mistakes," Cramer admitted, adding: "I'm an easy target. I'm loud."

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