CNBC Squawk Box anchors Andrew Ross Sorkin and Joe Kernen have clashed on air in an extraordinary exchange, trading a series of ugly jabs over each of their responses to the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.
The heated debate started when Mr Kernen suggested Mr Sorkin had displayed a track record of overreacting to the virus that has now claimed the lives of nearly 100,000 Americans and infected more than 1.6 million in the United States.
Mr Kernen suggested that Mr Sorkin was being too pessimistic about the markets during a segment about the S&P 500 and Nasdaq’s recent spikes. Mr Sorkin, however, noted “a lot of smart people” have questioned how the stock market could be booming in the current state of the economy.
“Why is that the smart people?” Mr Kernen asked. “They’ve been wrong for 35 per cent! Why are they smart? Just because they can see what’s right in front of their nose? That doesn’t make them smart!”
Mr Sorkin fired back, “Joe, you missed it 100 per cent on the way down too! You missed it 100 per cent on the way down! And you missed 100,000 deaths!”
As Mr Kernen started to interject, Mr Sorkin raised his voice.
“Hold on! Hold on! Hold on!” Mr Sorkin said. “I’m not going to do this with you Joe! Every morning you try to question the questions I am asking! These are questions that investors are asking every single morning. I am just trying to get through some of this clutter.”
The dust up appeared to settle for a brief moment, but reignited when Mr Kernen again accused Mr Sorkin of being too negative.
“You panicked about the market, panicked about Covid, panicked about the ventilators, panicked about the PPE, panicked about ever going out again, panicked if we’d ever get back to normal,” Kernan said.
Mr Sorkin, who grew visibly frustrated, fired back at Kernen, saying, “You didn’t panic about anything!”
“100,000 people died, Joe. And all you did was try to help your friend the President! That’s what you did.”
“Every single morning on this show you have used and abused your position, Joe,” Mr Sorkin added. “You have used and abused your position.”
Mr Kernen defended himself, calling Sorkin’s characterisation of his positions “totally unfair.”
Mr Kernen said that he had simply been trying to advise investors to “keep their cool.”
The clash eventually came to an end with Mr Kernen moving on and reading the headlines.