CNN’s Rick Sanchez, fired for a controversial radio tirade, joins an infamous list of broadcasters who talked before they thought – or at least thought through the implications of what they were saying – and paid the consequences to their career.
On Thursday, Sanchez called Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart “a bigot,” and he suggested that Jews run CNN and “all the other” networks. He was speaking on the satellite radio show “Stand Up! With Pete Dominick.” Within 24 hours, CNN had fired Sanchez.
Sanchez, who had hosted CNN’s afternoon show “Rick’s List,” has had a running feud with Stewart, who frequently mocked Sanchez.
In the radio interview Thursday, Sanchez suggested that his career had been held back because he is Cuban-American. He railed against “elite, Northeast establishment liberals” who he said are prejudiced against “a guy like me.” And he linked that point of view to Stewart and to his own bosses at CNN.
That might have raised eyebrows and earned him a private rebuke, but then he took his comments farther.
Singling out Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz to a Jewish family), Sanchez said: “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?”
That was too much for CNN executives, who fired him with a terse “Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company.” CNN would not comment further, and Sanchez has not been heard from since leaving the organization.
The whole episode reflects an era in which not only “shock jocks” but a wide range of broadcasters feel increasing pressure to incite an emotional reaction from listeners and viewers and to start rhetorical fights. But for most outlets, there’s still a line not to be crossed involving race and religion.
Rush Limbaugh was forced to resign as an ESPN pro football commentator for comments he made about black quarterback Donovan McNabb. Don Imus caused an uproar with his racist, derogatory comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. More recently, Laura Schlessinger apologized for using the word "nigger" multiple times in a conversation with a black woman about race on her syndicated radio show – which, she has since announced, will end in December.
Meanwhile, Sanchez has his new book to promote. It’s title: “Conventional Idiocy.”