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In the Crossfire

Martha in the hot seat

(CNN) -- Martha Stewart has been in the hot seat for selling stock in a company a day before it took a tumble. Stewart has insisted she did nothing wrong when she sold nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone stock Dec. 27, the day before it was revealed that the Food and Drug Administration had refused to consider an application for the company's key cancer drug.

Is she being unfairly targeted by the media and congressional investigators? Christopher Byron, the author of the book "Martha Inc." and Dennis Kneale, the managing editor of "Forbes" magazine, step into the "Crossfire" with hosts Dee Dee Myers and Robert Novak.

NOVAK: I think there's something else here. The other people, the people from Enron didn't get the kind of publicity in the New York tabloids and the magazines. I thought one of the most astute comments appeared in "The Wall Street Journal" by Jennifer Grossman. She wrote this. She said, "What stands on trial is Martha Stewart-ism, the striving, quintessentially middle-class American impulse to make life a little nicer, to take its lemons and, quite literally, turn them into lemonade." I don't want to criticize you, but you wrote a very critical book about Martha Stewart. You're a little turned off by niceness, aren't you?

BYRON: Let me say this, Bob. I don't agree with that quote at all. Martha Stewart-ism, whatever that is, is not on trial here. In fact, nobody is on trial yet. The question is whether this woman is a felon. That's an appropriate inquiry by the media and anybody else. We're talking about her here tonight because everybody wants to know this. This is the main topic in the news, and it's appropriate material. And it's got nothing to do with whether this woman is the McGyver of home decorating and can make a centerpiece out of garden hose.

MYERS: It might not be about that, but, Mr. Kneale, isn't it a sign that sometimes having a company that is so dependent on the image of one person can be a slightly dangerous business practice, irrespective of whether this brouhaha is fair?

KNEALE: Sure. I think that, yes, that is exactly what we're seeing in the market. It's just that the investors are wrong. If you look at Steve Madden, the shoe designer, the guy gets indicted for fraud regarding his initial public stock offering. He gets a 41-month prison term recently. The stock has gone up since then because investors decided it was undervalued. Versace, he was murdered; the company lives on. Martha Stewart will live on. And the stock's a buy right now.

BYRON: Hold it.

MYERS: That's probably true. I'm sorry, but we're out of time at this point. Thank you both for joining us.




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