Afraid of the Truth

In stocks, as in life, it is better to be right and unsparing than wrong and mealy-mouthed.
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I keep having this dream. It goes like this: I am on a TV show on some cable outlet, and I am taking phone calls and giving out my buy, sell and hold ratings.

Host: Our first caller is Joe from Pennsylvania. Yes, Joe?

Joe: Mr. Cramer, what do you think of


(PFE) - Get Report


Cramer: Pfizer is a very well-run company and an excellent stock for the long term.

Host: Nancy from New York -- go ahead Nancy. You are on the air with Jim Cramer.

Nancy: What do you think of

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Report

here in the mid-20s?

Cramer: Morris is a core holding, an excellent stock -- one that will be great over the long term.

Host: Next up, Gary from Tennessee. Gary, what's your question?

Gary: Would you buy more

First Union


here if you owned it?

Cramer: Of course, I would, as First Union is a terrific long-term buy -- one of the best banks of a very undervalued group.

Host: We have Sam from Florida on the line. Go ahead, Sam.

Sam: Mr. Cramer, what do you think of

General Mills

(GIS) - Get Report


Cramer: I am glad you asked, Sam, as General Mills is a fantastic core long-term holding. Can't go wrong there.

Oh sure, sometimes the names change. Sometimes I praise REITs; other times I say nice things about utilities and oils, you see, because the answers are all the same: laudatory, congratulatory and positive, without a trace of cynicism or criticism. A perfect smiley-face response.

And then I wake up in a cold sweat, remembering how I had offended no one, pleased everyone and had given exactly the


answer, the one I simply did not believe in at all, about any stock that I was asked about. I feel the lack of shame as if it is a cold chill going down my spine. I can't even begin to get out of bed, let alone see myself in the mirror, and look the glad-handing betrayer right in the eye.

That's what I most fear. The big sellout. The charming, meaningless blather that assures you will be back and nobody ever gets hurt. So what if you said you like something and it goes down? That's the market for you! You don't owe those viewers peanuts!

Nah, I can't do that. I can' t play the game. I guess that's what is so funny when I am on these shows where people call in. Heck, I have to do everything I can to hold back what I really think so I can stay in this game and not be lynched by angry managers. Recently I got asked about a stock I thought for sure might blow up soon. I said it. Just point-blank said it. The stock soon after fell by 40%.

I felt great.

But all I probably did was piss off a bunch of people who were long it or who worked there. And now, a year after the anniversary of my most pilloried performance, the "I am not short





but think at 15 it is going lower" show on


"Squawk Box," I am reminded of what happens when you speak too loudly about what you are worried about. You get hammered by just about everybody.

But, then again, I look at where the stock is now -- 4 and change, down 60% from my cautionary, negative comments -- and I know that my nightmare is just a dream, and I have nothing to fear from my conscience.

It is better to be right and unsparing than wrong and mealy-mouthed. In stocks and in life.

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James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. Cramer's fund also may be long or short certain stocks in his B2B rotisserie league or Red Hot index. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at