A Friday CNBC segment on coronavirus-related business closures devolved quickly into an on-air shouting match. It’s far from the first time the tension between the economic effects of the shutdowns and the necessity of social distancing have resulted in a battle on the financial-focused network.
This time, it was Rick Santelli and Andrew Ross Sorkin who found themselves duking it out. Sorkin has been in the middle of some of the wilder CNBC COVID-19 fights, and Santelli has already publicly apologized for “insensitive” comments about the pandemic before.
Longtime host Santelli said Friday, “There is, actually — and should be — an ongoing debate as to why a parking lot for a big-box store by my house is jam-packed, not one parking spot is open. Why are those people any safer than a restaurant with plexiglass? I just don’t get it.”
He lamented that, in his mind, there has been little attention given to the subject of “job losses” in small businesses that result from closures while some businesses, like corporate stores, are doing slightly better.
“Squawk Box” host Sorkin jumped in with “a public health and a public service announcement.”
“The difference between a big-box retailer and a restaurant or, frankly, even a church, are so different it’s unbelievable,” Sorkin said.
“I disagree! I disagree! I disagree! You can have your thoughts and I can have mine!” insisted Santelli.
Sorkin pushed on, trying to herald the “science” behind people wearing masks in stores to protect themselves and others.
This is where it got pretty loud.
“It’s not science! 500 people in a Lowe’s aren’t any safer than 150 people in a restaurant that holds 600. I don’t believe it! I’m sorry. I don’t believe it,” raged Santelli as Sorkin donned an expression that showed he was over it. Sorkin told him he didn’t have to believe it, to which a defiant Santelli replied, “I don’t and I won’t!”
Sorkin told Santelli he was “doing a disservice” to their audience and Santelli enacted a sort-of “I’m rubber, you’re glue” defense: “You are doing a disservice to the viewer! You are. You are.”
A weary Sorkin said he wanted to keep CNBC viewers “as healthy as possible” while Santelli argued that they were smart enough to stay healthy on their own.
One viewer on Twitter summed up the moment as what happens “when WWE takes over CNBC.”
Watch above, via CNBC.