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Stewart, Cramer square off over market meltdown

 Comedian Jon Stewart tapes Comedy Central
Comedian Jon Stewart tapes Comedy Central's 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' at the University of Denver, August 26, 2008. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
— image credit: Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian Jon Stewart and financial commentator Jim Cramer squared off on Thursday night over the CNBC TV network's reporting of Wall Street ahead of the market meltdown, and Cramer conceded he -- and others -- gave some bad advice.

In recent days on his mock news program "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," the funnyman has taken Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money," to task by saying he and CNBC reporters befriended Wall Street executives and former government officials instead of questioning them as journalists should.

Cramer, who offers advice and stock market tips on his CNBC show, has fought back, saying Stewart chose only examples of bad advice Cramer had given.

"I think everyone could come in under criticism. We all should have seen it before," Cramer said. "Everybody got it wrong. I got a lot of things wrong."

Average people trusted financial advisors who told them to pour money into market-oriented accounts for the long term, Stewart said, and those people lost their money when Wall Street used those savings to generate short-term profits.

Stewart said financial reporters like Cramer and others on CNBC should have taken the time to uncover financial shenanigans and not have been so quick to trust business executives and government officials.

"The financial news industry is not just guilty of a sin of omission but a sin of commission," Stewart said.

With financial markets headed upward almost daily in recent years, Cramer said it was hard to believe the march skyward would not continue. "The market was going up for a long time and our real sin, I think, was to think it could continue to go up a lot," Cramer said.

In the end, the two agreed the financial press corps should refocus on asking hard questions of top executives.

"Maybe we can ... start getting back to fundamentals on the reporting, and I can go back to making fart noises and funny faces," Stewart said.

"I think we can make a deal right here," Cramer said, and the two shook hands.

(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte, editing by Vicki Allen)

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