MEND IT, DON’T END IT…. When Jon Stewart made Jim Cramer look awful last week, it was largely seen as a personal rebuke. The general takeaway was that Stewart found Cramer to be irresponsible, called him on it, and Cramer didn’t even try to defend himself.

While that was part of what happened, I think that’s an overly narrow read. Some of Stewart’s ire was directed at Cramer directly, but more importantly, Stewart — both in Thursday’s interview and in general — was going after CNBC. Indeed, he said as much when Cramer talked about the banana cream pies he throws at CEOs, saying, “As Carly Simon would say, this song ain’t about you.”

Stewart added at one point, “You knew what the banks were doing, and yet were touting it for months and months. The entire network was.”

And in the wake of last week’s brouhaha, an increasingly large group of people don’t just want to see Cramer be more responsible, they want to see his employer take on the role it should play in the process.

Some liberal political activists and economists are seizing on comedian Jon Stewart’s attacks of CNBC to push an online petition drive urging the network to be tougher on Wall Street leaders.

Spearheaded by the new Progressive Chance Campaign Committee and supported by the watchdog Media Matters and others, the group is asking CNBC to hire economic voices with a track record of being right on the current economic crisis, and do more to hold business leaders accountable.

“You screwed up badly,” the petition, posted online Monday, reads. “Don’t apologize. Fix it.”

It’s not likely to be received well by CNBC producers and executives, but this initiative is actually an excellent idea. CNBC is in a unique position to make a real difference — if it wants to.

Imagine, in the midst of a global economic crisis, with anxious American news consumers confused about complex issues, there was a cable network made up of knowledgeable financial experts devoted to quality reporting. They could expose those playing fast and loose. They could run exposes. They could offer more than one perspective on Wall Street. They could push back against CEOs pushing nonsensical talking points. They could ask better questions than, “Is it fun being a billionaire?”

You may say I’m a dreamer, but apparently, I’m not the only one: the open letter at FixCNBC has over 11,000 signatures.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.