“Obviously you feel like you have something of value to say.”
Liz Claman, who spent years at CNBC in the shadow of Maria Bartiromo, has moved to FOX Business Network and keeps proving that she has perhaps the best Rolodex in the media (besides, maybe, Hardball’s Querry Robinson). Several times now, she’s managed to assemble Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Charlie Munger for exclusive interviews all together, which nobody’s ever done. She regularly gets exclusives with Google’s Eric Schmidt, and got her hands on one of only two tell-all manuscripts on Bear Stearns’ collapse, when every outlet was dying to get its hands on it. This thing was hotter than that fourth Twilight book where they rip the girl apart to get the vampire baby out. And she interviewed Twitter creator Biz Stone before anyone knew what it was, or suspected the US State Department would be propping it up as Iranian citizens updated the world on their botched election.
Her sister’s life was also, according to legend, the basis for Aaron Spelling’s cornerstone brand, Beverly Hills 90210. Yet she was still kind enough to talk to me extensively for a story in my college newspaper, giving Colgate students advice on the troubled job market and differentiating yourself in an interview.
Well, now she’s somehow snagged an exclusive with Elliot Spitzer, and god only knows how she convinced him to go on with her, but as soon as he sits down, she stuffs him with a heaping spoonful of “How Could You Have Thought This Was a Good Idea?” The regret is immediate, as she starts in on him with
There are people looking at you and saying, wow, this guy made a massive mistake. And the schadenfreude in New York, on Wall Street, when you went down. The “gee, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!” There were people cheering this on when you went down. And I think it strikes people, well, it strikes me as almost a very Reverend Jimmy Swaggart moment. I mean, the guy who gets up on the soap box and says “Don’t commit adultery,” and then he commits adultery. The very people you went after, you engaged in that very behavior.
Mind you, this is before Spitzer has uttered a single word, and he’s sat down thinking he’d be talking about the financial crisis. “What we are here to talk about, Liz, is Wall Street.” And boy, does he. Claman doesn’t care if he ever talks to her again, she lets him off the hook for nothing. She accuses him of extorting Merrill Lynch into a billion dollar settlement with the state of New York, contributing to AIG’s downfall by getting Hank Greenberg fired, and not doing Tim Geithner’s job for him.
After he finishes defending his job as Attorney General in detail, this freaking awesome exchange happens. Way to throw him the curveball, Liz:
SPITZER: Back then, confronting Wall Street was considered political heresy. When we went to other elected officials to ask for their support, they said no.
CLAMAN: In retrospect, what would you do differently?
SPITZER: With respect to those cases?
CLAMAN (throwing her hands up): With respect to all that’s happened– with the prostitution!
SPITZER: Wait, let’s put that aside a second and–
CLAMAN: No, don’t put that aside, because I’m telling you, people aren’t ready to put it aside.
This woman was on the subject like The Sandlot dog on a home run ball.
Next was the hilariously frank:
Well, this is a little unbelievable. Elliot Sptizer after this horrendous fall from grace. And here you are back out again, ready to speak to entrepreneurs. Why are you doing this?
Spitzer went on to explain that he was invited because he was knowledgeable on business after having tussled with Wall Street as Attorney General and Governor, and having criticized the Fed and SEC on subprime loans, complaining firms were trading those derivatives illegally. He’d been known as the Sherriff of Wall Street. Claman’s response?
I think you might agree you have a credibility problem, on, forget moral authority, on any authority. There are people that are saying, why should I be listening to this guy?
Spitzer takes one last shot at deflection a few minutes later, saying the entrepreneurial groups thought he had something of value to say because he’d lived through the root of the financial crisis and knew people like Geithner and Summers well. Claman goes in for another fakeout, suggesting they could talk about the financial meltdown, and then, ohh, never mind:
Well, let’s talk about the financial crisis — and then we’ll get to corruption, because there’s people who might be watching and saying “THIS guy’s talking about corruption? He was corrupt!” You know, we’ll talk about all of this, of course.
Despite all that, Spitzer came off as remarkably knowledgeable, for a philandering lawyer, on financial minutiae like credit default swaps beyond just that they’re level 3 crazy frozen solid assets.
And here’s me and the hardballer at that New York Stock Exchange.