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A CNBC discussion on the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and businesses escalated into an explosive battle on the air.
CNBC’s on-air editor Rick Santelli went off on anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin about the ongoing coronavirus lockdowns as he argued on the double standards in restrictions that seem to unfairly target some businesses. Tempers flared quickly in the fiery debate as Santelli argued that “it’s not science” that is driving the unbalanced safety orders on the pandemic in some states.
Addressing the number of Democratic leaders who have been caught violating their own coronavirus restrictions lately, Santelli explained that he was not looking at their hypocrisy so much as the fact that the “intelligent people” had come to the conclusion that it is safe enough for them to dine out.
“Therefore, there is actually and should be an ongoing debate as to why a parking lot for a big-box store like by my house is jam-packed, not one parking spot open. Why are those people any safer than a restaurant with plexiglass? I just don’t get it,” the veteran business reporter said Friday.
“I think it’s really sad that when we look at the service sector in all of the discussions we’ve had about job losses that that particular dynamic isn’t studied more, isn’t worked more, we don’t put more people in a room and try to figure out ways so that these service sector employees and employers could all come back in a safer way,” Santelli contended.
“You can’t tell me that shutting down, which is the easiest answer, is necessarily the only answer,” he added, prompting Sorkin to interject with a “pubic service announcement.”
“Rick, just as a public health and public service announcement for the audience, the difference between a big box retailer,” he said, before Santelli – who was at a different location – cut back in, asking, “Who is this?”
“The difference between a big-box retailer and a restaurant or, frankly, even a church are so different, it’s unbelievable,” Sorkin, who is also a financial columnist for The New York Times, said after raising his hand up to the camera to get Santelli to be quiet.
“I disagree. I disagree!” Santelli exclaimed, after shaking his head and crossing his arms in frustration with Sorkin’s remarks. “You can have your thoughts and I can have mine!”
“You’re wearing a mask! You’re required to wear a mask! It’s science,” Sorkin argued. “I’m sorry. It’s science. If you’re wearing a mask, it’s a different story.”
“It’s not science!” Santelli shot back. “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! Sorry, I don’t believe it, and I live in an area where there’s a lot of restaurants that have fought back and they don’t have any problems. And they’re open!”
“You don’t have to believe it, but let me just say this: You’re doing a disservice to the viewers,” Sorkin responded.
“You are doing a disservice to the viewer! You are! You are!” Santelli exclaimed.
“I’m sorry…I would like to keep our viewers as healthy as humanly possible. The idea of packing people in restaurants and packing people into a Best Buy are completely different things,” Sorkin snarked.
“I think our viewers are smart enough to make part of those decisions on their own!” Santelli observed. “I don’t think that I’m much smarter than all the viewers like some people do.”
“How’s that working out for you Rick? I mean, look at the numbers,” CNBC’s Steve Liesman asked as the rest of the panel tried to move on. “Rick, the numbers show that the idea of let it rip has not worked all that well.”
“It’s working out fine. It’s working out fine, Steve,” Santelli shot back.
“I understand it’s a horrible thing and people are getting sick and dying. I understand it. I just think the way we deal with it isn’t necessarily — ” he added before anchor Melissa Lee interjected.
“I think if we spend the rest of the show talking about this,” Lee said, “there will be no agreement so let’s move on from here. Getting back to the jobs report.”
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