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May 28, 2020, 7:54 a.m. EDT

‘100,000 people died, Joe, and all you did was try to help your friend the president,’ says Sorkin of CNBC co-anchor Kernen

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By Mark DeCambre, MarketWatch


YouTube, CNBC
Andrew Ross Sorkin, left, shares a split screen with Joe Kernen.

Anchors Joe Kernen and Andrew Ross Sorkin got into an uncommonly heated exchange during CNBC’s morning show “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. The co-hosts’ fiery back-and-forth has drawn attention on social-media platforms and may highlight the perception of the role of the media in characterizing the state of affairs amid the worst public health crisis in a century, with Kernen accusing Sorkin of overreacting and Sorkin saying Kernen has underreacted to the coronavirus pandemic for political reasons:

‘You panicked about the market, panicked about COVID, panicked about the ventilators, panicked about the PPE, panicked about ever going out again, panicked that we’d ever get back to normal.’

Joe Kernen

Tensions erupted on-air between the pair, as Kernen outlined what he perceives as an overreaction to the COVID-19 outbreak that was first identified in Wuhan, China, late in 2019 and has infected 5.6 million people globally and claimed more than 351,000 lives, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as of Wednesday morning.

‘And, Joseph, you didn’t panic about anything? Joseph, 100,000 people died. A hundred thousand people died, Joe, and all you did was try to help your friend the president. Those are what you did, every single morning on this show, every single morning on this show. You have used and abused your position, Joe. You have used and abused your position.’

Andrew Ross Sorkin

Sorkin made the case that Kernen has been overly dismissive of the tens of thousands that have perished so far from the deadly pathogen, with the U.S. responsible for fully a third of the global death toll.

The New York Times, where Sorkin is also employed, published a piece on Sunday headlined “ An Incalculable Loss ” intended to mark the lives lost due to the tragedy, with most of those virus-related deaths coming within the past three months.

Wednesday’s verbal dust-up between the two television commentators came as the U.S. equity market is recovering from lows hit at the end of March, as concern surrounding the impacts of the pandemic rapidly escalated while most of the world went into lockdown to curb the disease’s spread.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.44% , the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.05% and the Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.66% indexes have all climbed more than 30% from their March 23 lows. Although the stock-market indexes are still well off the record highs registered in February, the resurgence in equity markets is underpinned by hope for a vaccine and efforts to reopen seized-up businesses.

A wave of optimism about the potential for remedies and treatments has spurred hope that businesses could open more quickly than expected and supported stock prices.

See: ‘We’re right in the middle of the first wave’ of the COVID-19 pandemic, says WHO official

However, the economic pain could be more lasting, experts say, and it is unclear where the market and economy will go from here as the U.S. and the rest of the world attempt to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Back on the CNBC set, Kernen, in seeking to defend himself against Sorkin’s accusations — which he called “totally unfair” — said, “I’m just trying to help investors keep their cool, keep their heads and as it turned out that’s what they should have done.”

Check out the Kernen-Sorkin exchange on CNBC via this Twitter user:

It’s also here on Youtube, but this version unfortunately comes with commentary from the person who posted it to the platform. It is included here because it offers a fuller version of the CNBC exchange:

/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
26,075.30
+369.21 +1.44%
Volume: 337.36M
July 10, 2020 5:09p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,185.04
+32.99 +1.05%
Volume: 2.41B
July 10, 2020 5:09p
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
10,617.44
+69.69 +0.66%
Volume: 3.19M
July 10, 2020 5:16p
loading...

Mark DeCambre is MarketWatch's markets editor. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @mdecambre.

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