If half the rumors about Dennis Kneale are true, the CNBC host has good reason to fear bloggers and curse them on air. So why is he telling people privately that he manufactured his feud with bloggers for buzz?
After Kneale's repeated on-air outbursts against bloggers, in which he has called them "dickweeds" (see June 30 video above) and "digital imbeciles," Kneale told our source who spoke privately with him that the crusade was dreamed up with his producer, former Fox News man Jerry Burke. The idea was to draw attention and drum up buzz.
Which is kind of pathetic, if you think about it, that a major cable news channel is trying to scare up viewers in the puny financial and media blogosphere. Still, there's an outside chance the strategy could eventually produce PR gold; Kneale scored yesterday with a friendly article in the Observer.
Without specifically addressing what he's said to other people, Kneale told us in an email his feelings are "particularly heartfelt:"
My "animus" toward vicious, anonymous bloggers and blind comments pre-dates my joining CNBC... Look at the scary and brilliant Forbes cover story on net anonymity, which I edited, in October 2007: it should make bloggers feel ashamed.
Kneale's campaign against shame is something of a transformation for the one-time Forbes editor whose antics became legendary after editor Bill Baldwin lured him from the Wall Street Journal in 1998. The most famous story — we've heard others, but this is the one that was widely told on the Forbes staff; i.e. the kind of gossip that pre-dates blogs — occurred at the company Christmas party shortly after he was hired. As relayed by people who worked for the magazine at the time, it goes like this:
After the party, Kneale shared a cab back to Park Slope, Brooklyn, with three other people: a female Forbes writer, a male Forbes staffer and the staffer's wife. Somehow, in the course of the ride, Kneale managed to grope both women. The next morning, the male staffer showed up at Kneale's house to avenge his wife's honor, and when the story reached the office Kneale had to beg several layers of the Forbes masthead to keep his job.
The incident was purportedly the foundation for this Feb. 12, 1999 Page Six blind item:
WHICH business-magazine editor, who keeps a jar of blue jellybeans on his desk labeled Viagra, was called on the carpet for feeling up an underling's wife? The co-workers and their spouses were in a taxi heading to Brooklyn after an office party. The underling later went to the groper's home to get an apology. The groper's boss told him that if it ever happened again, he'd be fired.
Kneale declined to comment on the story, writing, "As a rule I do not respond to blind comments... if Gawker will publish the names of the people behind these 11-year-old rumors, maybe I'd have more to say." We know the names of two of the people said to be in the cab with Kneale and emailed them for their version of events. We'll update if we hear back.
We don't begrudge Kneale some purported drunken mistakes in his past. We all have them. Though the number of tales that have crossed our transom in recent days suggests Kneale has more than his fair share. And so we have to wonder if his hype-seeking crusade against gossipy, anonymous bloggers is less about principle and more an exercise in self-defense.