TAKE FIVE: Toe to Toe With CNBC's Charlie Gasparino

CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino doesn’t pull punches. A former amateur pugilist, Gasparino’s outsize on-air persona has gotten him in multiple verbal kerfuffles of late. He’s tangled with guests—notably former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey Ross—and even sent an uncalled-for haymaker at colleague and Squawk Box contributor Dennis Kneale. CNBC anchor Erin Burnett has invoked his name as a noun. "Pulling a Gasparino" is to shout down an opponent.

But Gasparino says it’s all part of the theater of live television. And he hasn’t exactly been discouraged. Says network spokesperson Brian Steel, "Charlie always has an interesting perspective, and he is not shy about expressing it."

Gasparino may not be the most elegant take-down pundit, but the former print reporter (Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal), who came to CNBC in 2005, gets the job done and makes noise doing it. He also just sealed a deal for his third book—The Sellout, about the collapse of Bear Stearns—with a handsome advance from HarperCollins. Gasparino talks to B&C’s Marisa Guthrie about his attitude, Wall Street greed and L’Affaire Spitzer.

So what’s with all the verbal scuffles? Dennis Kneale seemed genuinely offended when you joked that he was also a client of a high-priced prostitution ring. Should you tone it down a notch?

When you do live TV, sparks fly. That’s what’s good about it. It’s impromptu and we’re both big enough boys to forget about it when it happens.

The subprime collapse and the pending acquisition of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan Chase have certainly kept you and everyone else at CNBC busy. How has the way you’re reporting it changed?

We’ve been doing it nonstop for a year now. There is a premium here on breaking news. The way the world is working, these mega-media empires, News Corp. with Fox, GE with NBC, Bloomberg, we’re seeing the convergence of skill sets of reporters. To be a reporter who can actually write it, who can go on the air and report it and analyze it, that’s the reporter of the future because all of these news organizations are placing a premium on convergence. This is what CNBC is trying to do with CNBC.com: write it, get on the Web, and the Web traffic drives viewers to TV.

But many print reporters haven’t been able to make the transition to TV and in fact have resisted it.

The thing with reporting is, the more you do it, the better reporter you become. But most want to do less of it as they get older.

Your third book, The Sellout, is about the Bear Stearns debacle. How did Bear come so close to bankruptcy?

They rolled the dice on all this risk and sold out their shareholders and their principles. Bear Stearns was one of the most risk-averse companies in the world. [Legendary former CEO of Bear] Ace Greenberg’s legacy was the stock trade. His philosophy was, take the loss on the trade and move on. It wasn’t a risk-taking culture; it made a lot of money. [But then] it didn’t make as much money as others, and they started rolling the dice.

So when can we expect to see this book?

They want me to do it tomorrow but I’ve got a day job, so I’m going to do it in a year.

You used to cover politics, so you became familiar with Eliot Spitzer. What’s your take on his stunning implosion?

I always thought something would happen because I’ve seen his dark side. When you get into it with him, he’s a really smart, engaging guy. It’s the same with [former New York Stock Exchange head] Dick Grasso. I never saw Grasso as this disgusting, money-grubbing guy. The problem is, a lot of journalists reduce things to black and white. And that’s the same thing with Spitzer. He reminded me of Jimmy Swaggart in many ways.