WATCH: This Spicy CNBC Exchange Perfectly Encapsulates A Lockdown-Divided America

Written by K. Walker on December 5, 2020

Two CNBC hosts locked horns over the efficacy of lockdowns and it was quite a battle!

An onscreen battle took place on Friday morning on CNBC after one host tossed out a throw-away comment about lockdowns.

On the pro-lockdown side was Andrew Ross Sorkin, who argued that having Big Box stores open is very different from having indoor dining or churches open. He said that it’s pretty clear because of The Science™.

On the other side was Rick Santelli, whose 2009 impromptu rant against bail-outs on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was considered to be the birth of the Tea Party Movement. Santelli argued that precautions can and should be taken to open up restaurants and smaller stores.

The heated exchange occurred during a panel discussion after host Joe Kernen made an offhand comment about the hypocritical pro-lockdown Democrat politicians who have one rule for the people and another for themselves. Santelli gave his thoughts that the rules were inconsistent, but then Sorkin jumped in with what he called a “public service announcement” to the viewers in favor of lockdowns for certain places but not Big Box stores because they’re Very Special Places that don’t spread the ‘Rona.

KERNEN: We’re seeing maybe stimulus, but we’re seeing calls for, not necessarily closing things down, but certainly there are some calls to close things down — except for the politicians themselves — but for their constituents. They’re talking about — they need to be much more careful, we’re hearing, right?

SANTELLI: Yes. No, believe me, I believe in careful, and when I point out governors cheating, it’s not for the hypocrisy, which exists, it’s the fact that I think many of these governors are intelligent people and they love their families, which they have taken out into restaurants. Therefore there is, actually, and should be an ongoing debate as to, you know, 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, and I think there’s are a million of these questions that could be asked, and I think it’s really sad that when we look at the service sector, and all the discussions we have 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 the service sector employees and employers can all come back in a safer way. You can’t tell me that shutting down, which is the easiest answer, is necessarily the only answer.

SORKIN: Rick, I just — just as a public health and public service announcement for the audience, the difference between a Big Box retailer —

SANTELLI: Wait, first of all, who is this? Who is this?

SORKIN: Hold on. The difference between… It’s Andrew. The difference between a Big Box retailer — hold on — The difference between a Big Box retailer and a restaurant or, frankly, even a church, are so different, it’s unbelievable.

SANTELLI: I disagree. I disagree. I disagree! You can have your thoughts and I can have mine.

SORKIN: Going to a Big Box retalier, you’re wearing a mask. You’re required to wear a mask. It’s science. I’m sorry. It’s science.

SANTELLI: It’s not science! 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, 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!

SORKIN: You don’t have to believe it, but let me just say this: you’re doing a disservice to the viewer, because the viewers need to understand that —

SANTELLI: You’re doing a disservice to the viewer! You are! You are.

SORKIN: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. If — I’d like to keep our viewers as healthy as humanly possible. The idea of packing people into restaurants and packing people into a Best Buy are completely different.

SANTELLI: I think that our viewers are smart enough to make part of those decisions on their own. I don’t think that I’m much smarter than all the viewers like some people do.

It was at this point that host Melissa Lee interjected and tried to get the discussion back onto the previous topic which was the jobs report.

Check it out:

Sorkin apparently hasn’t read the report from El Paso that says contact tracers have linked 55% of COVID cases to shopping at Big Box stores.

This exchange encapsulates in just two minutes the tension between the pro-lockdown and anti-lockdown views. There are those that want to protect the people who are most at risk for the virus and have the rest of us continue to live our lives, keep businesses going, without the heavy hand of government imposing arbitrary rules. Conversely, there are the fearful pro-lockdowners who want to defer to the Nanny State to impose rules for some but not for others, allowing Big Box stores to make money hand-over-fist while Mom and Pop stores are closing, and these folks keep yelling “It’s The Science™!” to punctuate every point that they make, seemingly oblivious to the lack of evidence that the precautions do anything to stop the spread of the virus.

It was 11 years ago that Santelli’s Tea Party Rant started a movement that forever altered the right-wing movement in America and eventually led to a Trump presidency. Perhaps he has the magic touch to start a second one. We’ll just have to wait and see…

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ClashDaily's Associate Editor since August 2016. Self-described political junkie, anti-Third Wave Feminist, and a nightmare to the 'intersectional' crowd. Mrs. Walker has taken a stand against 'white privilege' education in public schools. She's also an amateur Playwright, former Drama teacher, and staunch defender of the Oxford comma. Follow her humble musings on Twitter: @TheMrsKnowItAll