Rick Sanchez Fired from CNN After Comments Calling Jon Stewart a “Bigot” and Suggestions about Jews Running CNN and News Media

Manchester, NEW HAMPSHIRE — What a difference a few hours make. I was out all day appearing at an event in my other incarnation and was struck by New Hampshire’s falling leaves. Then I came back and learned about a fallen cable news anchor: Rick Sanchez, one of CNN’s rising personalities whose show “Rick’s List” seemed to be getting better and better in terms of interview content and pacing, was quickly fired from CNN after calling Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart a bigot and suggesting that Jews run CNN and the news media.

I could have told Rick a long time ago: making unkind generalizations based on race or religion has not proven to be a good career move for some others who were on the ascent. It has derailed the careers of people who seemed to be sailing to the top or even above in their professions. With varying degrees of unwise stereotyping or outright bigotry it turned once ironic figures into damaged goods. People such as Jesse Jackson, Mel Gibson and Oliver Stone. And no matter how many apologies he made, comedian-actor Michael Richards’ post-Seinfeld career was never the same and will never be the same after his foaming-at-the-mouth explosion against some black patrons at a comedy club. The Plumline has the two sentence statement CNN statement indicating that Sanchez, who had become more and more outspoken as he began to flesh out the genre of personality-colored news anchoring in his role on Rick’s List, was being shown the door as quickly as possible in a way so the network can move on:

“Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well.”

What happened? It seems a class case of someone letting their professional guard down and perhaps giving too much of a glimpse of what he really felt. TPM gives a good summary:

Sanchez’s departure comes after he said yesterday that “The Daily Show” host “Jon Stewart is a bigot” against “anybody who doesn’t agree with his point of view, which is very much a white liberal establishment point of view.”

“They minimize you, and treat you like you don’t matter,” Sanchez said of Stewart’s show, also adding: “I am a complex human being. I am not some moron.”

Stewart had been taking pot-shots at Sanchez, portraying him as not the brightest anchor on the block. But that’s what comedians and satirists do: they find a flaw, quirk, or stumble and pick it up and run with it. Comedians love “call backs” within a routine — referring to the same joke or person — or if they’re on TV picking on the same personality over and over. It can ruin the image of the comedy subject, but that’s a reality of comedy. And, in most cases, it truly isn’t personal.

But it sounds as if Stewart got Sanchez’s goat. Even, so, he might have just been asked to cool it for a day if he hadn’t made this comment:

I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah.

Over.

Fin.

Done.

I had just come in and Twittered about Sanchez making a bad career move when I saw the Plum Line article about his firing.

Mediaite gives some background worth noting here and commenting on:

…The big takeaway – Sanchez calls Stewart “a bigot,” then walks it back a bit, and he implies CNN is run by Jews.

Dominick was not just a radio show host – he is a CNN contributor who has a regular gig on John King, USA (more on that below), and he formerly was the warm up comic at The Daily Show. Which is why when Sanchez says “I think Jon Stewart’s a bigot” early in the interview, Dominick pushed back:

Dominick: How is he a bigot?
Sanchez: I think he looks at the world through, his mom, who was a school teacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that. Great, I’m so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine.
Dominick: What group is he bigoted towards?
Sanchez: Everybody else who’s not like him. Look at his show, I mean, what does he surround himself with?
Note that here Sanchez could also be referring to Stewart surrounding himself with people of the same economic, social and political status or ideology. But that does not negate his other comments.

Dominick, by the way, has a superb talk show called POTUS — Politics of the United States — a Sirius/XM political talk show that is enjoyable to people who can’t stand political stalk shows. It’s a serious talk show — and it a reason in itself (more than Howard Stern) to subscribe to satellite radio.

Some other points to note here:

  • Sanchez’s Rick’s List was steadily improving. I have largely given up on listening to talk radio polemics and now mostly to CNN, NPR, CSPAN, POTUS, and the BBC on XM Radio. I will also listen to Fox News and MSNBC but wind up turning some of those programs off because I know what the hosts will say before they say it (and often how they will say it).
  • CNN has just fired its President and has a batch of new programs about to start in an effort to become more competitive with Fox News and MSNBC, two networks that are clearly branding themselves as opinion-dominated cable news networks. Like centrists and moderates in political parties, CNN has not had an easy time of it trying to navigate through the political R/L minefield. CNN clearly seems to now want to keep enough of its old identity but evolve a bit. Or, as some of Spain’s reformers put it after the death of dictator Francisco Franco when they wanted to turn Spain into a democracy: “Evolution without revolution.” The last thing CNN needs now would be an anchor who is perceived to have religious bias issues or to be a loose cannon.
  • News media figures and the media itself are now becoming increasing polemical targets for partisans and right and left, deserved or otherwise. Sanchez would have been slightly damaged with his comments about Stewart alone But he became virtually toxic by his comments about his own employer the news media in general and Jews. Even if he didn’t mean the way it sounded, it would be hard for him to convince some viewers who would have clamored for his dimissal at worst, turned him into an ongoing issue at best/ Even with an apology, he’d be damaged goods at a time when CNN has a lot riding on attempts to make the network more competitive in a changing media market where longterm survival is not a given for anyone.
  • CNN is likely to have more shows that feature opinion or center on personality — but the kind of opinon and perceived personality that Sanchez emitted with his comments are not exactly what the network higher ups would seek…as is evident by the quick statement issued wishing Sanchez well somewhere away from the CNN studios.
  • No one is irreplaceable. CNN has some other young, rising stars that will likely now rise a bit faster now that Sanchez is gone and it’s likely they won’t repeat his mistakes: a)it’s nice to get loose in front of audiences but there are limits, b)generalizations about areligion or race do not a good career move make, c)putting your employer and others who employ people into the same questionable and negative generalization is not wise d) words and image do count.
  • FOOTNOTE: During campaign 2008 I was invited to appear on CNN as part of a talking head panel. I was the independent voter in the middle of talking heads on the right and left. The host was Rick Sanchez who was extremely nice to all of us as we listened to his good questions on the air (the topic was speculation that Hillary Clinton would run as VP on Barack Obama’s ticket) and chatted with him before we went on via our earphones and mikes. A CNN staffer then told me that Rick Sanchez “was passionate” and to expect him to be effusive on and off the air. And he was — and it was a wonderful experience.

    But sometimes passion can also be damaging to a career.

    Here’s the audio of his comments so you can judge for yourself (and leave your comments in District TMV):
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    SOME OTHER REACTION (these are excerpts so go to the link to read them in full).Some were written before CNN announced that Sanchez was fired:

    Wonkette:

    According to CNN’s Rick Sanchez, Rick Sanchez is not an idiot, he merely came from a working class family. And that’s why Rick Sanchez hates Jon Stewart: Jon Stewart is “bigoted” against him. And Jews like Jon Stewart “run” CNN and “all the other networks,” so Jews aren’t allowed to be a minority. Makes sense! That is a logical thing to say. “Wait a minute, this guy is criticizing me, but doesn’t he realize I’m a minority? You can’t criticize minorities.” Why does Rick Sanchez know he is a smart person? Because he said all these comments about Jon Stewart and the Jews out loud, on a national radio show.

    Ed Morrissey:

    CNN just overhauled its executive roster. Their on-air lineup may be about to change again, too. Mediaite reports on what looks like a career flameout by host Rick Sanchez, who claims that his network is run by people who are a lot like Jon Stewart, and by that he doesn’t mean hip comedians with subtle facial nuances. Sanchez made the remarks in an interview with Pete Dominick on his satellite radio show yesterday, starting off by alleging that Stewart was, in fact, a bigot…

    …Talk about biting the hand that feeds him! CNN has been rather patient with Sanchez, who hasn’t exactly produced blockbuster numbers. He’s certainly produced his share of embarrassing moments, however, and whoever runs the show at CNN has kept Sanchez on the air through it all.

    That may change shortly, of course.

    ReadWriteWeb:

    CNN host Rick Sanchez has more than 140,000 followers on Twitter but is now out of a job. The controversial but creative TV personality interacted live on the air with Twitter and Facebook users, but it was good old fashioned radio where he made statements about Jewish control over the media that lost him his job today.

    Sanchez’s popular Twitter account handle is named @RickSanchezCNN, but he’ll be able to change that without losing his thousands of followers. He hasn’t changed it yet, nor made any kind of statement over that public channel, but this unique intersection of traditional media and new media at a time of professional upheaval presents some interesting questions.

    The Village Voice’s Running Scared:

    Stelter also noted that Sanchez technically “left” and wasn’t “fired,” but come on, semantics: he was categorically fired, technically separated from his job either by his own choice or by someone else’s willing him to separate from his job or somewhere down the line realized he should probably leave in light of a monumental gaffe earlier today. Not that Sanchez was always on the wrong side of issues, or that he’s just a hot-air blowing entertainer — like, say, a Glenn Beck — as he often was on the right side of issues and was tapped into a vital culture of news (like, say, Twitter) with the kind of enthusiasm news networks should be encouraging. But he also had his fair share of arrogant screwups that turned public opinion against him, quickly. Of course, this country loves a comeback kid, and this isn’t completely unrecoverable. But it looks like week-old CNN president Ken Jautz has just made one big, big statement about the way he’s going to be running his company: with swift action towards bush-league screw-ups that result in nasty PR fiascos. Gotta wonder how long it would’ve taken him to get rid of Lou Dobbs.

    The Politico:

    Some, such as Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, have argued that Sanchez’s meaning in the last statement could be up for dispute, since it occurred during a discussion of the white Northeastern liberal establishment.

    But others interpreted the comments to be anti-Semitic. “Shame on Rick Sanchez!,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, in a statement Friday. “His public feud with Jon Stewart does not give him license to malign the Jewish people with a classical retread of anti-Semitic bigotry.”

    Sanchez did not appear on his show Friday, though his Facebook page said he was at a book signing in Atlanta.

    The firing comes during a time of extreme turmoil at CNN. Jon Klein was fired from his job as the president of CNN’s domestic channel on Sept. 24, before two primetime shows that he hired talent for could hit the air. Sanchez, who joined CNN in 2004, was given his own show in January.

    The Huffington Post’s Earl Ofari Hutchinson:

    The instant now former CNN news host Rick Sanchez shot off his mouth and claimed that Jews owned his employer CNN, this writer demanded that CNN have the guts to fire Sanchez. It wasn’t a totally slam dunk that it would. Sanchez has a following. His quirky, confrontational style seems tailor made for a network chasing ratings and Fox Network. CNN could have easily taken the mealy mouth, tap dance around, cop-out way out and suspended him with a reprimand, and a stern warning that any repeat pop off and he’d be out. It didn’t it summarily fired him, just as I called for. CNN’s swift action in a bigger sense, though, has less to do with canning an errant news host then sending the message that there’s one tolerance, and only tolerance for bigoted remarks from air talent, or anyone else for that matter that works in a reputable news organization, and that’s zero, to repeat zero tolerance. CNN did itself proud the way it handled Sanchez, namely showing him the door.

    The GOP and Tea Party leaders can learn something from this. It has winked and nodded, and back door stroked, tacitly encouraged, and even applauded its long parade of bigots, kooks and cranks with the lame excuse that it can’t police the bigots in its ranks…

    CNN is not the GOP or the Tea Party. But it is an organization, a powerful organization, and so are the GOP and the Tea Party. And like all major organizations it has a duty to set an example of public decency and civility, and first and foremost that means stamping down on bigotry whenever and wherever it arises in its ranks.

    CNN did just that.

    CNN International has a story with this lede:

    Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) — CNN anchor Rick Sanchez abruptly left the network Friday afternoon, just one day after making controversial comments on a satellite radio program.

    “Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company,” according to a statement from CNN. “We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well.”

    The San Francisco Chronicle’s blogger Zennie62

    And that ends a long career with CNN and Turner Broadcasting for Rick Sanchez. Rick is on his own “List You Don’t Want To Be On.”

    Frankly, it’s sad because Rick didn’t have the chance to walk back his statement. Or, something happened where he was asked to do something he didn’t want to do.

    Maybe it was to apologize. Frankly, what he did was stupid: getting on a radio to trash his company as being “ran by Jews” which isn’t true and moreover, if it was true, so freaking what? It’s not a bad thing. Dumb. Just plain dumb. It’s not over. Stay tuned.

    –An Update at Newsweek’s The Gaggle blog:

    UPDATE, 3:45 p.m.: Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, e-mails a statement: “Shame on Rick Sanchez!… As survivors of the ultimate expression of such racist stereotyping, we believe Mr. Sanchez spoke with insensitive thoughtlessness rather than calculated hate. Nevertheless, his words are deeply offensive and shocking. He should immediately retract his heinous comments and apologize for them.”

    The Huffington Post’s MJ Rosenberg:

    I feel sorry for Rick Sanchez.

    And it’s not because I don’t think what he said was anti-Semitic. It was. It was also petty and ugly, calling the media’s most influential liberal, Jon Stewart, racially prejudiced when he clearly is about as unprejudiced and non-parochial as anyone can be. (Stewart is, in my opinion, the very best thing about the mainstream media. No competition either).

    Nonetheless, I feel bad for Sanchez because his attack on Stewart and Jews was not the adult Sanchez talking but the hurt Latino immigrant child who has always felt (rightly or wrongly) that white America looked down on him.

    That is how it must have been for him at 6. And he still can’t get over it.

    He thinks that when people like Jon Stewart see him they see a dumb Latino who should be cleaning tables. He’s wrong. They see a smart, provocative and movie-star handsome guy who has it all, and got it through hard work (and luck too, like everyone).

    Famecrawler’s Babble:

    Sanchez was a wee bit irritated that he had just lost his prized 8 PM time-slot on the news channel when he launched off a bitter tirade at everything from the CNN management to Jon Stewart.

    During the interview on Pete Dominick’s Sirius XM show, Sanchez blamed his demotion on everything from the ethnicity of the CNN Executives to the constant bombardment he gets on The Daily Show to his own Latin roots. The only thing he didn’t blame was his own lackluster performance in the prime-time slot!

    Is this really the guy we want telling our family the news each night?

    The Baltimore Sun’s Z on TV:

    The network says it will broadcast “CNN Newsroom” from 3-5pm in the place of Sanchez’s daily show “for the foreseeable future.”

    A myriad of questions remain: Who was Sanchez’s champion in CNN management, and how could they not know what an angry, ignorant and misguided man he was The prejudice revealed in this one radio interview is astounding.

    Really, what’s going onat CNN? Did Jon Klein, who was fired last week, just lose control of the operation? Or, were the folks who are running it now making the calls — calls like showcasing Sanchez and hiring Eliot Spitzer who debuts Monday as a prime-time show host on CNN. Talk about a perception of disarray.

    The New York Times’ Media Decoder:

    On Thursday’s radio show, in describing to Mr. Dominick the subtle racism he had experienced, Mr. Sanchez described a conversation with a CNN executive who said “I really don’t see you as an anchor, I see you more as a reporter, I see you more as a John Quinones.” Mr. Quinones, a correspondent and host for ABC, is Hispanic.

    Said Mr. Sanchez of the unnamed executive, “Now, did he not realize that he was telling me, ‘When I see you I think of Hispanic reporters.’ Because in his mind I can’t be an anchor. An anchor is what you give the high-profile white guys, you know.”

    On Wednesday, Mr. Sanchez ended a two-month stint as a prime-time anchor, bridging the gap between Campbell Brown, who left CNN in the spring, and Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, who take over the 8 p.m. time slot on Monday.

    Mr. Sanchez, who posts on Twitter more often than just about any other cable news anchor, posted nothing on Friday. Attempts to reach him offline were unsuccessful.

    Forbes’ Lacey Rose:

    In a media landscape where strong opinions garner ratings and bold statements cut through cutter, the fallout over Rick Sanchez’s rant proved that there is still a line.

    And his prompt firing by CNN? That proved he had stepped way over it.

    The cable network issued a statement Friday afternoon announcing that the anchor is no longer with the network after giving an interview on Pete Dominick’s satellite radio show a day earlier in which he called The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart a bigot and suggested CNN –and perhaps the larger media industry– was run by Jews.

    The Hollywood Reporter:

    What do you think? Will another network, eventually, hire him?

    UPDATE:
    Crooks and Liars:

    And as it turned out, this little slip was all CNN needed to give Sanchez his walking papers. According to an insider, the reason that Sanchez wasn’t being considered for a more prominent role at CNN may have had less to do with his Cuban, working class background and had everything to do with him being a jerk. Which is something this little rant did little to dissuade.

    Now if only we could get MSNBC to do something similar with Pat Buchanan…

    Allahpundit:

    The formal announcement is shockingly brief — which, actually, speaks volumes….I figured they’d keep Sanchez off the air today and then roll him back out on Monday, formal apology in hand. Instead, nothing but a “kthxbai” press release and a pink slip. Wowza. He’ll be remembered as a uniter, bringing left and right together in shared amazement…

    As for his next career move, his new book — entitled, believe it or not, “Conventional Idiocy” — is currently ranked #39,028 in Amazon sales, so I’m guessing that a sequel isn’t in the works. Fox News is a bad fit for him for obvious reasons, and as for MSNBC — well, let’s just say that I doubt Olby will be willing to let the following clip slide. Maybe he could catch on at … “The Daily Show”?

    The Wrap:

    Rick Sanchez gave a radio interview on the day that he lost his coveted 8 p.m. timeslot. That was probably a mistake.

    Angry about being replaced by CNN’s new “Parker Spitzer” talk show and the constant jokes made at his expense on the “Daily Show,” he lashed out on Thursday at his perceived enemies — CNN brass, Jon Stewart and Jews..

    Sanchez’s controversial comments began when he suggested that he had been marginalized by CNN brass because they’re “elite Northeastern establishment liberals” who won’t let him anchor because they reserve the top jobs for “the high-profile white guys:”


    For more media blog reaction GO HERE.