OLD Media Moves

Byrne vs. Greenberg, Round Three

March 1, 2006

The ongoing war of words between Overstock.com President Patrick Byrne and MarketWatch.com columnist Herb Greenberg continued this morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box show shortly after 8 a.m. EST. To set the scene, Greenberg was in the studio as a guest commentator, while Byrne was in a San Francisco studio.

CNBCAs for background, what’s been going on between these two is that Greenberg and other journalists have written articles and columns critical of Overstock.com and its cash position. Byrne has retaliated by posting interviews with journalists on the Internet, and the SEC got involved last month by issuing subpoenas, which it then backed away from, to Greenberg and other business reporters, related to an investigation of an investment firm that Byrne has sued.

Unlike earlier this week when he called Greenberg a “crooked reporter” on the Kudlow & Co. show, Byrne was relatively tame this time around. His best zinger was: “It’s my sense that the SEC was certainly onto Herb’s scent long before we came along.” As for the journalists who believe that Byrne and his belief that so-called naked short sellers are seriously misguided, Byrne said, “They’ve become the conspiracy nuts. I have not orchestrated the SEC investigation.”

Patrick ByrneAt one point during the interview, Byrne held up a sign with the URL of two Web sites that promote the theory that naked short selling is ruining the stock market. When asked why he was doing that, Byrne replied, “I’ve had enough of CNBC interviews being cut off.”

After Byrne finished, Greenberg was then allowed to reply. “My main complaint is this guy is an emotional nut case,” said Greenberg. “It’s basically ludicrous.” Later, he added, “I go out there attempting to help people avoid losing money.”

Greenberg also called for an investigation into The Sanity Check web site — one of the URLs on Byrne’s sign — that has been posting Byrne’s interviews with business journalists. The site is run by someone using a pseudonym, although Greenberg believes that Byrne knows the person.

Business journalism on television. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

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