This whole controversy is a bit surreal to me. The issue seems to have started off as just a personal conflict between Stewart and Sanchez. Over a period of time Jon Stewart repeatedly mocked Sanchez on various episodes of the Daily Show. (The Colbert Report has done similar things but to a lesser extent) For example, at one point Stewart calls Sanchez an over-caffeinated control freak (among other things) and Sanchez was featured several times on the Daily Show's "moment of zen" segment (for example in the wake of Sotomayor's nomination Stewart even did a bit including Sanchez' own mother.)
Then, this past Thursday, on the show with Pete Dominick, Rick Sanchez talked about a number of topics, his new book, his family, his faith, and his experiences of feeling marginalized in the news industry (including the mocking he's been getting from Stewart and Colbert).
Rightly or wrongly, Sanchez frames this marginalization in terms of race and class. He is Latino with a working-class upbringing in an industry where many of his colleagues are white and raised middle-to-upper-class. And if you listen to the entire interview Sanchez isn't fixated on Stewart or Jews but also mentions prejudice coming from Stephen Colbert, Glenn Beck, O'Reilly and some unnamed "top brass" at CNN as well:
Sanchez: I had a guy who works here at CNN who's a top brass come to me and say, ‘You know what, I don't want you to --
Dominick: ‘Will you wash this dish for me, Sanchez?’
Sanchez: No no, see that’s the thing; it’s more subtle. White folks usually don't see it. But we do - those of us who are minorities and women see it sometimes too from men in authority. Here, I’ll give you my example its this 'You know what, I don't want you anchoring anymore, I really don't see you as an anchor, I see you more as a reporter, I see you more as a John Quinones - you know the guy on ABC. That’s what he told me. He told me he saw me as John Quinones. Now, did he not realize that he was telling me, ‘When I see you I think of Hispanic reporters’? Cause in his mind I can’t be an anchor. An anchor is what you give the high-profile white guys, you know. So he knocks me down to that and compares me to that and it happens all the time i think. To a certain extent Jon Stewart and Colbert are the same way.
(I have to wonder if the same "top brass" Sanchez alludes to is still an executive at CNN.)
As a counter-balance, Dominick brings up Stewart's Jewishness to suggest that he is also a minority and has some understanding of Rick Sanchez's position. But based on Sanchez's childhood in Miami, Jews were just another flavor of white Anglo.
I grew up not speaking English, dealing with real prejudice every day as a kid; watching my dad work in a factory, wash dishes, drive a truck, get spit on. I’ve been told that I can’t do certain things in life simply because I was a Hispanic. My friends who are black, I’ve seen that with them; I’ve seen that with a lot of minorities. I can’t really think — although I understand the plight of Jews, and all the experiences, and the things that have happened historically for them — but I can’t say that my buddy Glen or my buddy Izzy who I grew up with in South Florida ever were prejudiced against directly simply because they were Jewish. There may have been jokes around them or about other things, but it’s kinda — you know what I’m saying, it’s kind of a different thing.
This is all context to the essential gaffe. When Dominick suggests that Stewart has minority status which should help him understand where Sanchez is coming from, Sanchez comes back with:
He’s such a minority, I mean, you know [sarcastically]… Please, what are you kidding? … 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.
Sanchez doesn't hold Jews in the media to any special scrutiny or suspicion. He just views them as part of the dominant establishment with all other white people. If anything, he is actually indifferent about the distinction. As he says to Dominick:
You brought the whole Jewish conversation into this. I don't think Jewish has anything to do with this. I don't think you are are less apt to be prejudiced or more apt to be prejudiced because you are or aren't Jewish.
Here is a partial Transcript of the Sanchez/Dominick interview but I would definitely recommend that you go to the very first link above and listen to the whole conversation. Sanchez does not go on a rant. He does not have a meltdown. He does not say "Jews are in control of all media". (Contrary to how some of the coverage is parsing the incident).
Some other thoughts:
If CNN is so racially sensitive then how was Lou Dobbs able to stay on CNN for such a long period of time before leaving? It's pretty clear that Mexicans don't run CNN. For that matter, even Dr. Laura is still on the air after her N-word rant. She announced her retirement after the incident, but she's still basically leaving on her own terms. Helen Thomas unceremoniously lost her job within a day or so.
At the same time, how is Patrick Buchanan able to stay on the air, on MSNBC no less? I would argue that comments about Jews are much more of a third rail than comments about other groups, but the whole picture is more complex than a question of who gets offended. To be honest, I suspect that Rick Sanchez's real mistake wasn't what he said about Jon Stewart, and implied about Jews, as much as what he said about "top brass" at CNN. Don't bite the hand that feeds you, regardless of ethnicity.
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