New York Times wunderkind Andrew Ross Sorkin was on CNBC twice today, promoting his new book, Too Big To Fail. Which is interesting, because CNBC tough-guy Charlie Gasparino is very, very angry at Sorkin over the book. Lawyers are involved.
For all his bluster, Gasparino can be a bit thin-skinned. His primary beef with Sorkin is over this passage from Too Big to Fail, in which Sorkin quotes Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein's thoughts on Gasparino's reporting:
While the 53-year-old Goldman C.E.O. kept a television in his office, he was so disgusted with what he believed was CNBC's Charlie Gasparino's "rumor-mongering" that he had turned it off in protest. "That's not my thing," he told [Morgan Stanley CEO John] Mack. "I don't do TV."
Do not call Charlie Gasparino a rumor-monger, or quote someone else doing so. He doesn't like it! Especially when it appears not to be true: According to Business Insider, a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman confirmed the anecdote about Blankfein turning off CNBC, but said "'rumor-mongering' is not a direct quote."
Gasparino was so broken up about the alleged misquote that he had his lawyer send letters to Sorkin's publisher Viking and to Vanity Fair, which reprinted the anecdote in an excerpt this month, demanding corrections. When we heard that Sorkin was going to be on Gasparino's turf twice today, we gave him a call to see what he thought about that.
"I don't own the network," he said. "But if he repeats what he said about me in his book on the air, there's going to be a big problem. Blankfein didn't say it. I like Andrew a lot, but I did tell him that I thought he was incredibly stupid and sloppy. He never even called me. I said, 'Why didn't you mention this rumor-mongering thing?'" On top of Blankfein's apparent walk-back on the quote, Gasparino is angry that Sorkin didn't depart from the book's narrative to investigate precisely what rumors Blankfein was allegedly accusing him of mongering: "What did I say that merits that description?"
"When I first saw that quote, I doubted it was real," Gasparino says. "It makes me wonder if the rest of the book is real."
And wonder he does: Gasparino is also keyed about this passage, in which Mack calls GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt at the height of the meltdown last year to complain about CNBC:
Mack believed negative speculation was purposely being spread by his rivals and repeated uncritically on CNBC. He was so furious with what he believed was "bullshit coverage" that he called to complain to Jeff Immelt.
For some reason, Gasparino thinks Sorkin is implying that the "bullshit coverage" remark was directed at him. "It made it sound like Mack was complaining about me," Gasparino says. "Mack himself point blank told me he wasn't talking about me—it was someone else at CNBC." OK then.
Thirdly, Gasparino disputes a quote that Sorkin attributes to hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller in response to a request from Goldman Sachs's Gary Cohn that Druckenmiller re-invest some of his money in the firm to help keep up appearances:
Druckenmiller, however, was unmoved. "I don't really give a shit-it's my money!" he shot back. Unlike most hedge funds, Druckenmiller's consisted primarily of his own money. "It's my livelihood," he said. "I've got to protect myself, and I don't really give a shit what you have to say."
"I got the same quote," Gasparino says. "I didn't use it in my book. Druckenmiller told me that he didn't say it. 'What he said I said—I didn't say.' He said that Sorkin called him and asked him if he had a conversation with Gary Cohn, but that he didn't run the quote by him."
The "my book" Gasparino is referring to is The Sellout, a book that, like Sorkin's, tells the story of the crash and the bailout. And, like Sorkin's, it has been heavily promoted on CNBC—Gasparino's hits on the network have lately been preceded by the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey to herald the tome's arrival. Unlike Sorkin's book, however, The Sellout won't hit stands until November 3. Sorkin's book came out today, and is already ranked No. 13 on Amazon. So we can understand why Gasparino might be a little bit peeved.
"The only thing I can think of is that he was jamming to get the book done," Gasparino says, "and he didn't dot all his I's and cross his T's." Well, that's one way to describe a competitor getting his book into stores two weeks before yours. "My advice to Andrew next time is, quote them right. Especially when it comes to quoting them about me." UPDATE: Gasparino called to make the fair point that he didn't get beaten in a footrace—the books' respective publication schedules were laid out long ago.
Sorkin didn't return e-mails seeking comment. Druckenmiller did not immediately return a phone call.