Cramer's Brand Substantially Dented. Will It Bounce Back with the Market?

CNBC’s Jim Cramer was obliterated by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central last night.

From time to time, Stewart transcends his needling, lampooning and satirical approach on his show and gets serious on issues he takes seriously: the Iraq war, the meltdown of the economy and, famously, the media, when he took on and helped end CNN’s Crossfire.

Why was Stewart’s treatment of Cramer fair? Because he was right. He used Cramer’s own unguarded words against him when the TV money pundit told an interviewer that he was a big short seller as a hedge fund manager, and “ fomented the market” to drive up his own market bets. He even admitted what he did is against SEC rules, but that the agency wasn’t sophisticated enough to catch it.

Cramer didn’t think he had a camera on him, and he was complacent. At one time, he even said that he can’t say that stuff on TV. We have seen this videotape before, buit it didn’t seem to hurt Cramer’s brand. Now, in the wake of the Stewart flogging, maybe it will.

Stewart also showed all the clips from CNBC in which Cramer was recommending and standing behind Bear Stearns up to the last week it was in business.

Stewart summed up the feeling among many little-guy investors when he said that it seemed to him that common investors were funding, through pension funds and 401ks, “the adventures” of guys like Cramer who skim so much money off the system that they never really feel the brunt of a Recession. He also implied that Cramer was protecting a alot of bad guys who had come on his show and lied.

The question is whether the Stewart interview will do to Cramer what it seemed to do to Tucker Carlson and the old CNN Crossfire show, which ended not long after Stewart went on and ridiculed Carlson.

Cramer complains that the video-tape indictments of him used by Stewart were taken out of context. Except they weren’t. The context was utterly correct and fair.

Cramer is to the investor class what Rush Limbaugh is to social conservatives: an entertainer who knows how to get rich off his opinions. That’s why CNBC gave him a show. It wasn’t to better inform viewers about business and the financial markets. The network gave him a show because he throws bulls and bears around his stage, rolls up his sleeves and gets into a sweaty lather. The Nightly Business Report, he aint.

Cramer can also be good at times at explaining complex financial instruments and issues to the lay audience.

What he is not good at it, it seems, is managing his own mouth and brand. He has been caught lying…to Jon Stewart, when he tried to say his words were taken out of context. Again, they weren’t. He got cocky, and didn’t think the rules of videotape applied to him.

For all the criticism being leveled at Stewart by some TV personalities like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, it is clear that they would like to ride Stewart’s coat-tails for higher ratings.

Cramer appeared on Morning Joe on March 10. Scarborough delivered his sanctimonious criticism of Stewart and defense of Cramer. But what was really going on, it seems to me, is that the ratings challenged Scarborough was trying to bait Stewart to come on his show and take him on.

From Scarborough: “Maybe Jon Stewart can tell us what’s going to happen in the economy in the next five years, or in the Iraq war.?”

Jon Stewart is an “ideologue” not a comedian. His show is “ideological.”

These from Scarborough: His [Stewart's]audience has a “Pavlovian” response of laughter to anything he does.

He has “100 people working for him” combing the Internet and transcripts to play gotcha on someone who doesn’t agree with him.

Prediction: Stewart is smart enough to see what Scarborough is doing, and doesn’t appear on his show. 2nd Prediction: Cramer tries to put the interview behind him and gets on with his show, and hopes that enough viewers will forget about the Stewart interview for him to maintain his brand franchise.

Just remember, nobody makes as much money listening to Jim Cramer as Jim Cramer.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE