The intertubes are all abuzz about something Larry Kudlow said on TV last week:

CNBC’s Kudlow: Be grateful the human toll is much worse than the economic toll from Japan quake!
(This message on Google Buzz)

CNBC’s Larry Kudlow illustrates why there’s such hatred of the Wall Street ethic, as he suggests that we should be grateful that the “human toll” from the recent horrendous quake in Japan is much worse than the “economic” toll on the markets. Every so often, these guys let their true feelings slip out:
(YouTube / 24 seconds)

Now, c’mon.

This was obviously little more than a slip of the tongue. Its LIVE TV for crying out loud — the guy is on at least 2 hours a day. Everyone who does these live shows eventually trips over their own tongue.

That doesn’t mean it was a major Freudian slip revealing his true thoughts.

Understand that I disagree with Larry about pretty much EVERYTHING. I cannot ever recall being booked on the show where we didn’t have a significant debate about a major issue: We disagreed about nearly everything George W. Bush did, about the credit bubble in 2005, the housing boom in 2006, why you should not buy the banks in 2007, why the market was so dangerous in 2008, why the bailout of Bear Stearns was a terrible idea, and how all of these big banks committed suicide.

But Kudlow did NOT mean what he actually said . . .


I’m scheduled to do Kudlow Thursday night,and I’ll ask about this . . .

Category: Really, really bad calls, Television, UnScience

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

43 Responses to “No, Kudlow Did Not Mean That . . .”

  1. I appreciate you doing this BR, but shouldn’t someone have asked him to clarify this by now? One of the business reporters for The Old Grey Lady or something?

  2. mark says:

    Unless there’s more video that I didn’t see the truly shocking think is that no one corrected him. The two women with him seemed to give a “Did he really just say that?” look but then nobody said anything. It was very strange.

  3. carleric says:

    Think of the uproar if some “bear” said something similar….CNBC hasn’t cut this moron loose? It speaks more to their agenda and their inherent stupdity than anything else.

  4. WyMi says:

    Of course if he truly is a capitalist in his hypocritical heart, he meant it. If not, he must be unAmerican. A socialist, unionist, communist. After all “Greed is God” I mean. “Greed is Good”

  5. RW says:

    Kudlow apparently tweeted an apology at and, as I understand it, issued a retraction on air but I haven’t seen that nor will I bother looking for it.

    I’ve never cared for Kudlow either in style or in substance but this appears to be slip-up while vamping a rather clumsy toss from a co-host and not much more than that.

    Not that that may matter in the increasingly toxic rhetorical atmosphere of this country.

  6. troubled times says:

    While he blasts government power over others he covets that power with ever cell in his body. He so much wants to be a Washington big shot. He demands you repeat his thoughts, not your own thoughts and thats true absolute liberalism. And of course he is a common CNBC buffoon but would he trade those lost lives for a strong economy? Well did he ever once demand the facts about Iraq and 9 /11 ? Nope

  7. TripleB says:

    The whole segment is nauseating. Imagine if your loved ones were dead or missing from the quake.

    Kudlow – this is your brain on drugs, kids….

  8. Invictus says:

    I’m not entirely sure why it’s “obvious” this was a slip of the tongue. There are folks out there — Kudlow probably among them — for whom portfolio value trumps all else, human tragedy included.

    He could have immediately retracted his comment mere moments after its utterance, yet waited until some hours later to do so on Twitter. What’s up with that? Could not some producer or co-anchor said, “Hey, Larry, did you really mean what you just said? Maybe you want to re-think that one.”

    Count me among those who believe it was a glimpse into what he was truly thinking.

  9. Bill Wilson says:

    Both liberals and conservatives are guilt of taking one sentence uttered by one person and using it to condemn an entire philosophy and/or entire group of people.

    That kind of rhetoric is preaching to the crowd in an echo chamber. It accomplishes nothing.

    Sincere liberals are using this opportunity to discuss the proper use of government safety regulation and energy policy. They are not wasting their time, cherry picking quotes, and bad mouthing Larry Kudlow.

  10. crutcher says:

    Since I’m already apparently in the penalty box I may as well let fly with my opinion on this one. Is there seriously no crossover point when for when economic damage is more lamentable than loss of life?

    Sure it’s easy to score points against seemingly cynical comments, real or misspoken, which put the bottom line ahead of personal suffering. But regardless of judgments about good taste or bad, this is a line we walk all the time – in medical ethics (how many hundreds of thousands of dollars are you worth to keep alive at the end of your time) and in consumption habits (is your happiness from eating meat, or eating at a restaurant really worth more than the suffering it causes or could alleviate for those with much greater marginal need?)

    Snap moral judgments are so very easy to make. Good public policy judgment concerning economic and ethical matters require sustained thought. Even if Larry meant what he said, such comments ought to be evaluated critically rather than lambasted.

  11. milkman says:

    Kudlow might be smart off camera but his record at CNBC has been atrocious. His incessant defense of all tax cuts at all economic times, good or bad, is sophomoric and greedy. He almost never addressed the Bush deficit and seemed to defend Cheney’s words that “deficits don’t matter”. That is until Obama took office and had to use stimulus measures to revive the Bush- Greenspan depression. He is a political hack and not a very good one. He belongs on Fox so he can preach to the right wing choir.

  12. mathman says:

    i sent this to you last week but it was removed (well, i can’t find it at any rate). i thought you’d comment on it.

  13. Rube says:

    Kudlow doesn’t care about “the little people” in this country,… why would he care about them in Japan?

    During the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,.. who was he more concerned about? The people that live there or BP? It was BP all the way.

    As long as Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein aren’t inconvenienced or paying more in taxes,.. he’s happy.

    You’re giving him way too much credit. He meant what he said.

    When you defend him, you lose credibility.

    Enjoy the show.

  14. noahmckinnon says:

    Larry’s mistake was simply saying out loud what he and many think. And frankly, should be factoring if you’re talking about markets and money. Like it or not, human beings are an integral part of the math.

  15. zdog says:


    He did not mean to *say* it, but he surely meant it.

  16. cognos says:

    Agree 100%. Its obvious what he meant — focus on the human trajedgy. Feel worry and sympathy there. Its not some major economic panic (1/15th of a country thats 1/15th of the world economy).

    Its not going to effect S&P500 earnings… so just another buying opportunity. Might actually get the Japanese economy going.

  17. wally says:

    Its LIVE TV for crying out loud — the guy is on at least 2 hours a day.

    That’s the first problem. There is no need or reason for anybody to blab on for 2 hours on the air everyday. That’s one reason that the internet is slowly extinguishing the older media styles… you go where you want and learn what you want; you don’t need it all filtered through one personality or style.
    Whatever he may or may not have said, the whole context is, to me, just pointless.

  18. franklin411 says:

    Slip-ups happen. Everyone knows that.

    Slip-ups get taken seriously only when they confirm an established pattern of behavior. If a pundit who has always opposed gun control slips up and says something that seems to be an explicit endorsement of gun control, we don’t take it seriously.

    But if a pundit who always values money over human life slips up and says that money is more valuable than human life, we take it seriously.

    It fits his character.

  19. DeDude says:

    Although I am disgusted by the man on a regular basis I agree that he most likely did not mean what he said. After all the money lost in the Japanese market and economy is not relevant to his own personal fortune.

  20. socaljoe says:

    I bet all those who are attacking LK were already against him because they disagree with his political views. If his views were liberal, I bet these same people would be rushing to his defense.

    I disagree with most of his views, but I have no reason to question his character.

    It’s a good thing none of my inadvertent mis-speaking has made it onto live television.

  21. David W says:

    Hey BR — I used to see you all the time on Kudlow’s show. He (respectfully) disagreed with just about every position you had — on Housing, Credit, markets, derivatives, sentiment, etc.

    Too bad you don’t have that video — you could put together a major embarrassing best of clip!


    BR: Thanks to the miracle of TIVO, I have every appearance on DVR or DVD.

    Maybe I should (heh heh) open source the video and let y’all assemble something amusing

  22. beaufou says:

    I think he meant the disaster was not having the same devastating effect on the markets, the cost in human life was much greater, in a distasteful way.
    It is equally distasteful for media pundits to take this story and blow it out of proportion.

  23. PDS says:

    Yes BR…u r correct…Larry did man up and apologize for the mispeak….he’s a gentleman

    Too bad Jim “Dendreon is a battle ground stock” Cramer, speaking for himself and all of his hedge fund pals who naked short the stk, didn’t do the same thing today on SOTS while the CEO was being interviewed….gee whiz!!!…. its a $5bil stock now….didn’t JC say that the company would NEVER go to mkt with Provenge..

  24. MorticiaA says:

    I’m no apologist for Mr. Kudlow, but c’mon…. it was an accidental slip, and there are WAY worse reasons to get our panties in ruffles than this.

  25. Michael says:

    Hi Barry,

    I agree with Kudlow on almost 100%, which helps explain why I disagree with you on about 100% of what you post. :)



    BR: I could agree with both you and Kudlow, but what purpose would it serve all 3 of us being wrong . . . ?

  26. swag says:

    Called to mind this gem from Britt Hume:

  27. dead hobo says:

    Sorry, but I’m in the Freudian Slip camp.

    Larry Kudlow is intelligent, shallow, a shill for Republican issues and, and repeats a predictable mantra to any discussion. Someone could sub for him and easily mimic his comments and analysis. A Turing Test could be created and perfected easily by a motivated computer programming student. Perhaps when he goes on to his celestial reward, he will be replaced by a monitor that displays a picture of his face, surrounded by stereo speakers.

    While he is certainly not callous, he certainly and quickly observed that the economic effect would by minimal over the long run and may even be stimulative. People mattered less in his quick-thought analysis and his comments reflected this. To some extent, he channeled the antagonist in The Fifth Element, who used the broken glass as an analogy to his version of good.

  28. Jack says:

    I think Kudlow’s producer(s) owe(s) him and the viewers an apology. He screwed up and his people should have unscrewed it.

  29. NotQuiteSo says:

    Kudlow clearly misspoke. They had just done a rundown of the markets, which were modestly up, and he said “I mean, the human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll and we can be grateful for that. And the human toll is a tragedy, we know that. But these markets – all these markets, right – stocks, commodities, oil, gold, there is no major breakout or breakdown.”

    He obviously meant only that he was grateful the markets weren’t breaking down.

    It was an awkward sentence, agreed, but it’s also very clear what he meant. However much I might disagree with some of his policy choices, the man is not an ogre.

  30. tjgpdx says:

    BR, I have too much respect for you, your blog and the contents of the blog. Don’t diminish yourself by defending either these comments or the issuer of them. Kudlow is a deplorable egomaniac with nothing ever to offer to the dialogue. He belongs on Fox and, God willing…..

  31. dss says:

    Kudlow is so used to blathering on like an idiot that it is no surprise that he slipped up. Always one to put a happy face spin on any event, this time he put his foot in his mouth by speaking before thinking what he was saying.

  32. louiswi says:


    If one were to take a collection of Kudlow’s rantings over the years and then make a prognostication such as: is he capable of making such a statement with firm belief; one would easily come to the conclusion that “yes, he meant what he said”. True, he may not have meant to say it but regardless, the conclusion is still, “he meant it”.

    You are polishing a turd when you defend him for statement.

  33. robert d says:

    People were there for Kudlow when he lost everything due to his
    well-known drug addiction.
    Now the Japanese and all of us need all the comfort we can get
    anywhere we can find it.
    Kudlow: you are in the position to offer that type of comfort.
    You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
    CNBC: You ought to fire the jerk. Perhaps he could return to Bear
    Stearns…oops, no, there would no longer be a job there for Kudlow.

  34. VennData says:

    The whole network has their patented post-disaster version of “We’re sorry, it’s terrible, and we don’t want to come off as capitalist swine but…”

    A five minute DVD of those would make me laugh.

  35. Unsympathetic says:

    Barry, shame on you for defending a person who is fundamentally evil.

  36. VennData says:

    I’d like to apologize for my previous comment. I didn’t mean I’d laugh at the unfortunate CNBC anchors, I meant I’d laugh at the…

  37. VennData says:

    I’d like to apologize for the previous apology…

  38. bsnceo says:

    Why should anyone doubt the sincerity of Kudlow on this or anything that flows from him? Why make excuses for him? That he probably belongs on Fox instead of CNBC doesn’t bother me because I watch neither.

  39. philipat says:

    IMHO, Kudlow is a complete dickhead who would be much happier at FBC. But, if only for PR reasons, I’m sure he would not deliberately say such a thing on-air. Never thought I would see myself defending Kudlow. Help?!!!!

  40. Moss says:

    His comments must be taken in proper context given the fact that he is a patriotic Reaganomics Perma Bull. He will probably end up being wrong anyway. The ‘trickle down’ economic impacts are not priced in if that is what he thinks.

  41. diogeron says:

    To attack Kudlow for an obvious slip of the tongue would be disingenuous and unfair. Yes, of course, I know that some of the extremists on the right would jump on a comparable slip by someone they don’t like in a NY minute, but that’s a tu quoque fallacy at best and wouldn’t change the fact that it would still be unfair. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to challenge or even attack what Kudlow says given his propensity for historical revisionism, especially when it comes to Reagan, but this isn’t one of them.