Stewart-Sanchez smackdown: Battle of the network cable stars

Oct 05, 2010

Battle of the network cable stars! Jon Stewart takes on Rick Sanchez, who lost his anchor job at CNN for taking on...Jon Stewart. Is Stewart a "bigot," as Sanchez said? Is Sanchez a buffoon, as Stewart implied? You make the call...

Howard Kurtz: Stewart-Sanchez smackdown!

de Moraes: Jon Stewart, David Letterman: on Rick Sanchez rant

Sanchez's wife apologizes for Rick

Hi, everyone. Let's go right to the phones on Sanchez vs. Stewart vs. Sanchez vs....? Fire away, folks...

Any evidence Sanchez had been drinking before that radio interview? I read of a tragic drunk driving incident in his background. I can't think of another reason why Sanchez let down his guard during a radio interview of all places and made the damaging statements about Stewart, Jews and his employer CNN.

None, but his wife said on her Facebook page that Rick had been working "14-hour days" for something like two months. I guess that made him loopy...and anti-Semitic. I wonder how that works. You get tired and you become a Jew baiter?

Who supported Rick Sanchez career so that he could achieve these heights of national embarrassment?

LOTS of the very people whom Sanchez ended up criticizing in the radio interview. He became something of a big deal in local TV news in Florida, then got hired by MSNBC, then jumped over to CNN, who promoted him up the food chain until he had his own daily, two-hour show.  CNN (and maybe the others, too) liked his "passion" on the air, as one CNN person once told me. You can read whatever you want into "passion."

Do we know who hired Rick at CNN in the first place? And who his protector/enabler was?

That would be Jon Klein, the now-ousted president of CNN. At least officially-- I doubt Klein made the immediate hire. But he had to approve it.

I honestly don't think Sanchez understands the definition of the word bigot and Stewart suggested that himself last night.

Interesting point. I think he DOES understand it all too well. And in his anger and frustration over being picked on by the Daily Show, he reached for it all too conveniently. But it's an absurd charge. The DS has never made fun of Sanchez's ethnicity. They picked on him because HE gave them the raw material that makes up the show.

I'm a little confused. Didn't Sanchez go out of his way to argue that most Jews are really just bourgeois white people? How then could he go on to argue that Jews per se control the media? I think his larger point, right or wrong, was about white privilege - no?

It's kinda both. He said a) Jews are not a powerless minority (which is true); and b) Jews control the media. The first raises eyebrows--why are we singling out Jews again? The second is a slur and a canard that bespeaks a kind of Nazi view of the world. 

Why was Rick Sanchez always the "middle inning reliever" at CNN?

Not quite ready to be a starter (i.e., a primetime host), although he did get to do some primetime fill-in work earlier this year.  Which also makes his complaint about network executives being as bigoted as Stewart even sillier. How many guys in America--Cuban-American or otherwise--get their own shows on CNN? Sanchez was hardly discriminated against.

You said you thought he was radio-active for future jobs, but if Geraldo Rivera can keep working, why not Rick?

I take back that answer.  He is NOT radioactive. He'll be working again within a year or so. Look no further than CNN to understand why. Who's that Spitzer guy who's co-hosting a show in primetime? Didn't I read about some trouble that he was in a while ago?

Was that Mel Gibson's excuse? I'm reminded of the British tongue-in-cheek euphemism when a well-known politician gets drunk in public: "tired and emotional."

Right. It doesn't fly. If something ugly and racist (or anti-Semitic) comes out of you when you're "tired and emotional" (or even flat-out drunk), you're very likely a racist or anti-Semite in my book. Drunk isn't even an excuse.

He was an entertainer who was laboring under the delusion that he was a journalist, like so many TV personalities today who appear on so-called "news" shows.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you like your "news," or your TV), being an entertainer or a personality is a pre-requisite to cable news stardom these days. Not many straight up Walter Cronkites on the air in primetime these days.

In what bizarro world is having a two-hour a day show on national television considered discrimination? I guess Sanchez was mad he didn't get Larry King's job. I can sympathize. He's just another hard working American losing a job to a foreigner!

Haha! Cute...And yes, I agree. It's amazing to me that you can be at the very top of the pyramid in a profession (sports, entertainment, TV news, etc.), be paid more money than 99.99 percent of everyone in the world, and STILL feel put upon and under-privileged. I understand any minority person's suspicions and anxieties, but at some point the evidence of your eyes should tell you something.

Thank you. This excuse from his wife was so pathetic, in addition to the patheticness of crawling into a hole and having your wife defend you on Facebook.

Yeah. I know his wife loves him 'n all, but that's a little embarrassing. I would speak for myself.  Apologize publicly and often. People WILL forgive (and they'll probably forget, too).

I think it was a mistake for CNN to fire Sanchez. What he said was wrong but it could have been used as a teachable moment. Instead of giving Sanchez an opportunity to confront the issue on his show and discuss it, CNN took the easy way out. Of course they could have just been waiting for an good excuse to fire him anyway, I think his ratings were pretty low.

When I first heard the news, I was actually surprised that they fired him. I thought a suspension would have been adequate. Then I heard the tape of the interview and it made sense. Sanchez not only tossed his credibility (if any) in the round file, but he also insulted his own employer on a national radio show. Hard for anyone to keep his/her job under those circumstances.

Sanchez's wife writes on Facebook

and I'm hardly powerful. One way or another. And Jews might be 'seen' as powerful...but each of us is a person who individually works hard (or doesn't). There's no 'Jewish group' where I can apply for my power....

My old friend and former colleague Jeffrey Goldberg once formulated this same idea the following way: "People say the Jews control Hollywood. It's not true--the Jews don't control Hollywood. But Jews do." Gigantic distinction!

Among other things, alcohol consumption can lower some folks' inhibitions. If Sanchez had deep-seeded feelings along the lines he expressed during the radio interview, too many drinks could have allowed those feeling to come rushing out, you think?

But alcohol and drugs don't really plant ideas in your head that aren't really there, do they? They may loosen your inhibitions, sure, but that stuff was probably in your  head before you took a drink or a toke. I'm not saying booze and drugs are some kind of truth serum. I am saying you're not entirely powerless under their influence either.

NO minority is powerless. This is another canard. Why do people feel free to judge the Jews as a minority completely differently?

Agreed.  Jewish people have become great successes in America (and in other societies) through hard work, education and by following an ancient moral code. That should be celebrated. End of story.

Not only did Stewart skewer what Sanchez said in a hilarious way, but he also stood up for Sanchez and showed a clip of Sanchez denouncing racism and bigotry. All in all, I thought Stewart did a fantastic job.

I liked the clip of Sanchez denouncing the skinhead dude, but I thought Stewart piled on a bit much. Did we really need the Michael Scott/"Office" clips? In all, he seemed a bit smug to me. You won, Jon--a little more graciousness, please.

This whole incident is rather disturbing. I never thought much of Sanchez - he seemed to be the personification of a McDonalds meal eaten while reading USA Today. He never seemed very sharp, or insightful, and was constantly making mistakes on air. One time he was talking on the air with an assignment editor at CNN's Washington bureau but didn't even know who he was. He thought he was a PIO. But I never thought there was an ugly underside to him. He always seemed friendly and genuine, and it's disturbing to know what lurks in him.

My impression exactly. As I may have said, he certainly gave the Daily Show plenty of raw material, but he never seemed like a BAD guy. Now he does.

Why do the articles about Sanchez say he was fired for calling Jon Stewart a bigot? Isn't it more likely he was fired for, oh, I don't know, insulting his bosses publicly with a paranoid anti-Semitic rant? I'm sure the CNN bosses didn't call Sanchez into their office and say "Hey, we don't mind the paranoid Jews-run-the-world rant or that you insulted us on the radio. But you just cannot call Jon Stewart a bigot and expect to get away with it. You're fired!"

That's my read, too. But let's do a little thought experiment: Say he doesn't insult his bosses at CNN the way he did. Do you fire him for calling Stewart a bigot and for suggesting that Stewart's Jewishness played a role in picking on Sanchez? Tougher call.

A little off-topic, but one of the brilliant parts of Stewart's show is its utilization of old video clips to show hypocrisy, lies, inconsistencies and other problems inherent in today's political rhetoric from both the left and the right. Stewart uses it for comedic effect, but I would think that a regular news station could use this method to keep pundits and politicians honest in a straight news, non-partisan way. However, they leave it to Stewart to come up with clips that show a John Boehner, for instance, using word-for- word the promises made in 1998 with those made in the recent so-called "Pledge to America." So, why have news shows abrogated this responsibility to a comedy show?

This is why I think the "Daily Show" is the best media criticism show on the air--and not just a comedic/satiric media show but a flat-out commentary show. The stuff they do in mining old clips is brilliant.  And I'm not saying this just because I wrote a story about two years ago about the guy (named Adam Chodikoff) who is in charge of mining those clips (I'd do the self-promotional thing by posting the link to my story here, but I've crashed the computer too many times doing that so please use your Google machines to find the story, if interested).  

if he quoted that nameless bigwig correctly, comparing him to John Quinones, Sanchez has a point -- couldn't the nameless bigwig have come up with a non-Hispanic reporter to compare Sanchez to? Not that that excuses Sanchez's silly sensitivity to Daily Show mockery.

I think we need to recognize here that even successful people can be paranoid. And maybe successful people are the most paranoid (that's how they got to be successful, maybe). In Sanchez's case, he might have been suspicious of his own success--did I get here because I'm a token, or for some reason other than talent? That Quinones comment probably stuck in his craw because it seemed to strike at his own paranoia and vulnerability.

I really hate the fact that Spitzer - better known as Governor Rough Trick - has his own show on CNN. Is it going to be about hypocrisy, megalomania and abusing the public trust, because this is what he is an authority on? It makes me sick. How in the world will this cure his illness of thinking he's above everyone else?

I'm not sure CNN cares if Spitzer cures his illness (though I'm sure they care if he breaks the law again). Instead, they care about getting a rating at 8 p.m.

Maybe the non Jews will, but I won't. I won't forgive Mel Gibson for his rants.  For that matter I won't forgive Michael Richards's rant against black people. It's not that I don't forgive mistakes, but these aren't mistakes.These are deep character flaws, and the real mistake was them letting their deviant thoughts escape their head. Alcohol or sleep deprivation don't make you say slurs against a race or religion. But they can make you lose your guard, and say what you really think but don't want people to know. That's while I'll never find these apologies sincere - because they are really only sorry for getting caught. I just don't believe people say bigoted things they don't mean. That makes no sense.

I guess I'm supposed to be beyond shocking, but I am a little shocked by all the (anonymous) anti-Semitic comments that have been posted on our site and elsewhere in the wake of this episode. It's u-g-l-y, and those folks ain't got no alibi.

Do you suppose people like Sanchez, etc., are so huffy about criticism from the Daily Show because they realize that they've laid themselves open to charges of incompetence by being entertainers rather than journalists, even if that's what their employers want them to be?

I think they're huffy because two million (or so) people are laughing at them every night. It's got to hurt. But who  made Rick Sanchez look bad on the air? I'd say Rick Sanchez made himself look bad. The only way out for him was to take the high road and say, "Yeah, that looked dumb. Wish I'd had that one back." People would have LOVED him for that...

It's only being a bigot when it's the other guy. Clearly, that's what Sanchez believed. Maybe the networks need to administer a lie dectector before they hire new broadcast personalities.

Exactly. Sanchez was blind to his own contradiction. He answered perceived "bigotry" with bigotry of his own. Despicable under any circumstances.

Pete Dominick, whos Sirius XM show Sanchez imploded on, is the warm-up comic for "The Colbert Report." It was weird to see him (his character) ignore this, just like they gave relatively short shrift to the reaction to his testimony before Congress the other week.

Never heard of the guy or his show but I thought he did a pretty good job of keeping the discussion and Sanchez honest. He asked the right follow-up questions and had the right rejoinders to Sanchez's madness.

I suspect you're not a person who does "the dozens." Stewart's response was mild. If you can't handle the game, get off the playground.

C'mon, Jon Stewart IS an entertainer. His job is to win friends and make people laugh. When, instead, you're grinding your ax (in your opponent's head), you look like the same sort of partisan jerk that the Daily Show rightly makes fun of. Get over yourself, Stewart. It's not (really) about you.

I listened to his entire interview on that radio show. I have also seen what Sanchez has done on the TV... I am sorry but he comes off as an idiot. Stewart pointed this out on his show...but I saw it live on CNN. One example was the Chile earthquake and the potential tsunami. Sanchez was caught not knowing where the Hawaiian islands are located. I also caught him making other utterly dumb references that you wonder if he did his homework or bothered to look at the teleprompter.

Yep. Plenty of stuff there for the Daily Show to riff on.

I think if Joe Klein had still been in charge at CNN, Sanchez would have been suspended for a few weeks but not fired. He probably would have done penance on the Daily Show too, a la Sen. John McCain. But with Klein gone I'm sure they were contemplating figuring out a way to get rid of Sanchez anyway - everything happened too fast to have been decided out of the blue. I think CNN used a "with cause" termination to get out of their contract with Sanchez. BTW, I also think Stewart's piece was excellent, it struck the right nuance of poking fun without really smearing Sanchez. If anything, it could significantly reduce Sanchez's "radioactive half-life" as it were.

You're forgetting something important: Anchorpeople are supposed to have gravitas because gravitas (at least on tv) equals "credibility."  If he had any gravitas or credibility before the radio interview, Sanchez instantly vaporized it. CNN cannot employ a guy like that. Jon Klein was irrelevant to this decision, I think.

If he had only called Stewart a bigot, he would have looked stupid but not offensive - i.e., typical day for Sanchez. It was when he broadened it to all Jews that became a mess. Being prejudiced against one particular Jew is not anti-Semitic. It's when you attribute a characteristic to millions of people simply because they worship the same God that you run into trouble.

Well put! I absolutely agree...

Perhaps Rick Sanchez could invite the police to tase him again.

I gotta say, I've seen that clip about 6,000 times now. It never gets old!

So how long before he gets his own show on FOX?

This is what a lot of people (including a person related to me by marriage for the past 29 years) have said.  Although Sanchez might be a good hire for the immediate publicity value, he doesn't really fit with Fox ideologically. Not likely to happen, I think.

Probably just the same few morons making all those comments. But who knows, right?

I'm not sure, but let's hope. And btw, anonymity is a far more powerful tongue-loosener than drugs or alcohol. The knuckleheads posting racist, sexist and anti-Semitic comments online would NEVER do the same thing with their names attached.

You're "...a little shocked by all the (anonymous) anti-Semitic comments that have been posted on our site"??? You don't read the comments much, do you?

I read them all the time--that's my point. They just keep on coming.

He's prejudiced against idiots. I must confess, I am the same.

Idiots: America's fastest growing demographic group!

I live in Brooklyn which has a lot of different cultures and races and religions. Oddly enough in my experience, the people I've met who say bigoted things are usually a member of a minority themselves.

Bigotry is an equal-opportunity disease. No group has a corner on it. I like travelling to various places and asking people who people in their area hate. The variety is astounding!

The Daily Beast just announced that Howard Kurtz is leaving the Post and joining the Web site.

Yes. Big loss for us. And sorta Sanchez-related: Howie hosts a media show on CNN.

well, yes it is if it's because he's Jewish!

Well, yes. But not if being Jewish has nothing to do with why someone is hating on you. Which is what Sanchez didn't understand. He thought Stewart (really, the entire staff of the Daily Show) hated him because he is Cuban-American. Nope.

Media and investigative reporter Howard Kurtz joins The Daily Beast as Washington Bureau Chief.

I found him to be incredibly unwatchable and will always be baffled as to how he got his own show vs. some of the other, better anchors they have like Tony Harris and Don Lemon. I fondly remember Tony Harris being stuck with the live coverage of something stupid Britney Spears had done and halfway through, he stared at the monitor and said, "Yes. This is still CNN - the ground breaking 24 hour news station providing constant coverage on a pop star." Love.

I like Tony (and that's a good reason to LOVE him), but my jury is still out on Don. I'm not sure what to think of his very smooth, very easy, almost velvety style. You'd think those would be good things, but I sometimes find them too soothing, given whatever trauma is being presented on the news.

The person I know of who acts most like Sanchez is Tom Friedman, who also happens to be Jewish like Stewart, but I must admit I don't watch Stewart because I'm offended when people are ridiculed for being unsophisticated or ignorant. Probably the single most costly thing that liberals and Democrats do is call their opponents stupid. Each time I hear it, I just see votes going to the GOP. Has Stewart ever used Tom Friedman's guffas and bombasity to gain big laughs or does he shy away from ridiculing a New York Times employee?

I've never seen Tom Friedman in a clip on the Daily Show (he may have been on, but I just haven't seen it).  And calling people names on TV is, unfortunately, where TV news has been going for the past 15, 20 years. There ought to be a rule--guests should stick to whatever facts they want, but no names will be hurled. I'm sure no one would watch, but it would raise the discourse in America, and lower the cynicism about politics.

CNN's flailing around for ratings (of which Mr. Sanchez's o- air schtick was a part) saddens me, as a fan from the old days. Do we think the recent ouster of Mr. Klein, fallout from the Sanchez incident and (so far) negative reaction to the Spitzer-Parker pairing means they have finally hit bottom? Is there any reason to hope that the pendulum will start to swing back toward the quality reporting they used to be known for (and which is still present, to some extent, on CNN International)?

Seems to me CNN has been caught in a partisan crossfire. Fox News staked out the conservative angle in primetime; MSNBC went the other way, leaving CNN as the middle-of-the-road alternative.  But quality reporting? CNN still does plenty good stuff. The problem is, there really isn't enough compelling news to fill 24 hours, or even 10 or 12 hours a day. Plus, there's so much competition for news today. CNN (and especially CNN International) make plenty of money, but "quality reporting" doesn't always draw a crowd.

I never understood why CNN gave him so much air time and the "Rick's List" show. He always seemed to come off as talking down to the audience, was generally smug and overly pleased with himself. Plus, when the show aired during the day when CNN was in "Newsroom" mode - it veered off into opinion land with a mutlitude on social networking interaction. I couldn't watch it. And if what I just read on wikipedia is true, he is lucky he didn't go to jail for his DUI where he hit and paralyzed a pedestrian (who was apparently also drunk). I'm surprised if he had much of a following or if his ratings were good. I will not miss him one bit.

You know why I'm gonna miss him? No more clips on the Daily Show.

White males do. What their religious or cultural background is doesn't matter; they're still white men.

White men "control" almost every American industry. But "control" suggests some kind of conspiracy. As a white male, I have yet to be invited to those meetings.

Am I insensitive in not thinking that what Sanchez said is not anti-Semitic. To say that there are a lot of Jewish people in the media is as obvious as saying that male interior designers tend to be gay. Jews are insightful, smart and like to analyze--hence they gravitate toward fields that put a premium on such. Gay men are stylish, innovative and artistic, hence they stay away from plumbing and towards fashion. Am I a bigot?

In context, no. You're saying that people who have certain skills tend to be rewarded for those skills, and that people from certain ethnic/racial/whatever groups tend to develop or have these marketable skills. But it's easily taken out of context, and dangerous to generalize. What about the gay men who aren't "stylish, innovative and artistic"? What about Jews who aren't in analytical fields? And Sanchez went much, much further--he was suggesting that there was a cabal of Jews that was holding  people like him back. THAT'S anti-Semitic....

It wasn't about Jon Stewart winning or losing. What makes him a brilliant satirist is his ability to hit the target in the bullseye, using humor. The Office clips allowed him to poke at the idiocy of the Sanchez tactics and claims without drawing in the common rhetoric that follows these chapters. That is not a Jon Stewart win. That is a U.S. society triumph. Thank God for Jon Stewart.

I love the Daily Show, but what did those clips add? We KNOW the Daily Show thinks Sanchez is a doofus. He lost his job fighting it. Why pile on?

Has the Post undertaken any study on how many (or few) people make the most comments on its political articles?

Not that I know of. Not sure it would be all that useful, however. Would we then try to stop them from posting multiple comments? I don't think so...

Do you think Sanchez just had a big chip on his shoulder and just let it loose in the radio interview, threw caution to the wind? And, why isn't he speaking now? Is he in seclusion?

I think he's already put his foot in his mouth. The only thing to do now is to shut up. Or maybe apologize and then shut up.

Why should Stewart have been more gracious? The "real" news guys spend more than enough time buffering each other's fragile egos, maintaining the fiction that everybody in the news business is really just trying to put on the best darned news show they can. Fair And Balanced, anyone?

Because he wouldn't look like he was dancing on the remains of Rick Sanchez's career. Because he wouldn't look like a sore winner. Becaue it would have been the right thing to do.

I'm Jewish and I'm not included in these discussions of world domination. When are the meetings? I could use some money and power. Thanks.

Please, under no circumstances, DO NOT tell this poster about the meetings! Got it?


Now, will the members of the Tri-Lateral Commission please come to order....

Folks, thanks for an interesting discussion. We'll do this--well, not exactly THIS, but something like it--again. Please stay tuned! Best to all...Paul

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Paul Farhi
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