CNBC's Controversial Rick Santelli Pitches A Fit Over Coronavirus Safety Measures

Mary Papenfuss
·2-min read

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...

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