CNBC boss tries to smear BusinessWeek with AIG charge

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Yesterday the NBC Universal chief, Jeff Zucker, rose to defend CNBC (somebody had to), during a Manhattan media summit. Jon Stewart had it all wrong, Zucker claimed. CNBC's done an amazing job reporting on Wall Street, and CNBC enjoys a sterling reputation.

The guy signs CNBC pay checks. He pretty much has to say that, even if it did take the better part of a week for anyone within the NBC family to stick up for Jim Cramer's infamous Comedy Central whupping.

Standing up for CNBC and claiming it wasn't fair to blame it, or the "business media," for not seeing today's economic collapse coming, Zucker, being interviewed at a forum co-sponsored by BusinessWeek, claimed faulting CNBC "would be like holding BusinessWeek responsible for suggesting in an article...in November, 2007, that the best financial stock to buy out there was, at the time, AIG."

The line drew from laughs from the audience. Ha-ha, even BusinessWeek got it wrong.

But did it? A check of Nexis found an AIG reference in a December, 2007, article in the newsstand edition of BusinessWeek. But it wasn't BusinessWeek claiming AIG was a great buy. It was BusinessWeek quoting a Wall Street pro, Elaine Garzarelli, president of Garzarelli Capital, who suggested buying AIG stock.

In other words, BusinessWeek didn't get AIG wrong. A Wall Street pro did. (Shocking we know.)

Online, BusinessWeek did publish a November 16, 2007, article:

Finance Stocks to Buy Now: Gene Marcial talks to investors who believe opportunities remain amid the wreckage at the Wall Street financial houses

And yes, AIG was among the stocks picked by investors, along with Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. But again, it was BusinessWeek interviewing a Wall Street pro; David Katz, chief investment officer at Matrix Asset Management, a New York money management firm. It was Katz who went on and on about how at $34 Citigroup was undervalued and would soon rebound to $60. (Today the stock's worth about $3.) It was Katz who claimed the banks had cleaned up their subprime mortgage problems.

Zucker suggested BusinessWeek told readers to go buy AIG stock in 2007. That's not quite true. Doesn't Zucker have enough problems defending the work of CNBC without casting aspersions on the competition?

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