The Corner

Economy & Business

Boiling Over

Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Andrew Ross Sorkin in Washington, D.C., September 12, 2018 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s frustration over having missed so much of the post-COVID realities in markets and economic life boiled over this morning in one of the more outrageous outbursts I have ever witnessed on financial media. Perhaps this outburst was rivaled only by his behavior during the March COVID market swoon, in which he — on a daily basis — worked hard to terrify viewers, making the most outlandish predictions one can imagine — when he wasn’t defending billionaire hedge funders who had gone on the network to say “hell is coming” with a massive short bet on the market.

One of the things that made CNBC so good coming out of the dotcom bust was the unleashing of their on-air personalities to express market and even political viewpoints. Larry Kudlow and others frequently voiced a center-right, pro-markets view, while David Faber and others held a center-left, market-skeptical view. The interactions for years were mostly mature, professional, and well-reasoned, even as they exposed different approaches and economic worldviews.

What Sorkin did on CNBC throughout the COVID pandemic was not merely ideological — it was sensationalism taken to a level I never thought I would see on business media. And it proved to be divorced from reality.

But here is where I will extend the courtesy to Sorkin that he did not extend to Joe Kernen during this morning’s outburst: I will start by assuming that perhaps he actually believed his predictions, and that his motives were neither crass nor driven by politics. And that is a courtesy: To be frank, a big part of me does believe that Sorkin is too smart actually to have believed the gloom he was peddling throughout March and April. But his daily talking down of the market’s failure to behave in the way his apocalyptic forecasts might suggest, and his daily refusal to accept the systemically improving health picture in our country does lead me to believe that he is frustrated by the way that investors have not followed his script. (And his outburst did look to me as if frustration was at play — but judge for yourself).

Could it be maybe, just maybe, Sorkin’s accusation of Kernen (that he has been covering for the president) might just be a little projection, in reverse?

So, take your pick — either Sorkin is sincere (if, in my view, self-deceived), or, on this topic, he is too ideological to come to an objective assessment. Or maybe the explanation lies with some combination of the above. But to accuse Kernen of shilling for Trump after the markets have moved in a way so differently than Sorkin had expected was unfair, unprofessional, and more than anything else, telling.

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