Arianna Huffington Calls Out Erin Burnett


Huffington Post publisher Arianna Huffington takes aim at CNBC’s Erin Burnett in her column today, accusing Burnett of “manufacturing complexity” when she should be providing information about where bailout bucks are going.

“I’m not saying that everything about this crisis is knowable — far from it. But there are a number of very simple truths that are being hidden behind a smokescreen of complexity and unknowability,” Huffington writes.

At the centre of her argument is an attack on what she sees as Erin Burnett’s obfuscations on the Bill Maher show on Friday night:

While we’re rewarding the risk-taking shareholders of various zombie banks — not to mention the mysterious, unconfirmed counterparties to AIG’s serial recklessness — how about rewarding the taxpayers, if not with an actual return on our bailout investment then at least with information about what exactly is being done with our money? It’s time to call in all the unknowns.

Instead, we’re greeted with a wall of manufactured complexity by the people whose job it is to make known unknowns into known knowns. There is nothing complex about the way CEOs like John Thain, Ed Liddy, Lloyd Blankfein, John Mack, Vikram Pandit, and Ken Lewis turned bailout billions into Wall Street bonus money — and no justification for keeping taxpayers in the dark about the giveaways (Vanity Fair‘s Michael Shnayerson breaks down the jaw-dropping and blood-boiling numbers).

Which brings us to the holy temple of unknown unknowns — CNBC. The financial channel’s Erin Burnett (Street Signs, Squawk on the Street) was on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night, suddenly seeing all kinds of complexity, nuance, and ambiguity in what can be known and not known about the economic crisis. Does the government know more than they’re telling us, asked Bill.

“I don’t think they know,” said Burnett. “I don’t think anybody knows.”

And: “I don’t even know that the CEOs themselves know.”

And: “Tim Geithner may know more than most, but no, he doesn’t know.”

And as for whether the financial geniuses at CNBC should have known something:

“It’s easy to say [there’s] a bubble, but you don’t know when it’s gonna burst. And I think that the question of timing and magnitude, nobody got. That wasn’t just a CNBC pundit thing, that was any expert out there.” I guess she missed experts like Roubini and Taleb.

And I certainly don’t remember that kind of circumspection in the run up to the meltdown.

Will Burnett fire back? From our experience with Burnett, we doubt she’ll address Huffington’s article directly. That’s more the style of Charlie Gasparino, who took a moment on CNBC’s Squawk Box to answer criticism from the New York Times Frank Rich by saying the columnist should stick to fiction. Instead, we’ll be listening closely for Burnett to indirectly rebutt Huffington.

Let us know if you catch anything!

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