In an astoundingly emotional on-air tirade Friday, CNBC personality Rick Santelli sputtered and railed against the need to restrict restaurant outings and to wear face masks to help stem the surging tide of COVID-19 cases.
He was disputed repeatedly in a face-off with “Squawk Box” co-host and New York Times financial columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who warned Santelli that he was harming public health with his wrong-headed screed.
Santelli argued that it wasn’t rational to shut down restaurants when parking lots at big-box retailers were packed with cars.
Sorkin jumped in: “Rick, just as a public health and public service announcement for the audience ... the difference between a big-box retailer and a restaurant or, frankly, even a church, are so different it’s unbelievable.”
Sorkin noted that experts agree that dining indoors at restaurants, where patrons have to take off their masks to eat and drink, presents a much higher risk of coronavirus transmission than shopping at a retail store, where customers and workers are usually required to keep masks over their faces.
The two began interrupting one another, with Santelli shouting, “I disagree. I disagree. I disagree! You can have your thoughts, and I can have mine.”
Sorkin returned: “You’re required to wear a mask. It’s science. I’m sorry, it’s science.”
“It’s not science!” Santelli yelled. “Five hundred people in a Lowe’s aren’t any safer than 150 people in a restaurant that holds 600. I don’t believe it.”
Sorkin shot back: “You don’t have to believe it. You’re doing a disservice to the viewer. You are. I’m sorry, I would like to keep our viewers as healthy as humanly possible. The idea of packing people into restaurants ...”
“I think our viewers are smart enough to make part of those decisions on their own,” Santelli retorted.
That’s when CNBC’s Steve Liesman piped up: “How’s that working out for you, Rick? Look at the numbers.”
Santelli responded: “It’s working out fine.”
In March, Santelli suggested on air that “maybe we’d just be better off if we gave it [COVID-19] to everybody, and then in a month it would be over.”
Even Tucker Carlson got in on the action on Fox News later Friday, replaying the confrontation and hailing Santelli as “one of the good guys.”
Critics on Twitter have repeatedly called on CNBC to fire Santelli, whose 2009 diatribe on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange against President Barack Obama’s proposed bailout for homeowners reportedly inspired the launch of the tea party movement.
Check out the video clip of the confrontation up top.
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