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October 4, 2010 / JV

Rick Sanchez: Unemployed and Tired of Being Picked On

As you may have heard, Rick Sanchez was fired from CNN on Friday, the day after his interview with comedian Pete Dominick on satellite radio.

CNN released a brief statement regarding the discharge: “Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well.”

It is unclear what pushed CNN to cut Sanchez. Was it his comment that Jewish people run CNN and are hardly a powerless minority in the U.S.? Maybe the network didn’t take kindly to Sanchez spotlighting their “top brass” administrator who, according to Sanchez, said to him: “You know what? I don’t want you anchoring anymore… I see you more as a reporter, as a John Quinones.” Or, perhaps Sanchez’s ten minutes began to expire when CNN’s former president, Jonathan Klein, under whom he enjoyed increased airtime, was fired last week.

It was apparent in his interview with Dominick that Sanchez feels not only “minimized” by The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, and The Colbert Report’s Stephen Colbert but also looked down upon within the media industry because of his working class Cuban background. He says of Stewart, Colbert and “elite, Northeast establishment liberals”: “deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier, and not the top tier.”

It seems as though Sanchez has conflated the frustration he feels with being picked on by Stewart and co. with the obstacles he’s faced in the industry that he feels have been related to being a minority. He is quite obviously “tired of” being laughed at by the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, along with CNN’s own Anderson Cooper, and uh, Glenn Beck? But how much is being treated like a “dumb jock” related to his ethnic and financial background?

Late in the fateful interview with Pete Dominick, the host quite wrongly suggests that because Stewart is Jewish he knows something about Sanchez’s experience. “Stewart’s a minority as much as you are,” exclaims Dominick. “He’s Jewish!”

To this, Sanchez responds:

Very powerless people… 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. [sarcastically]

Now here’s a guy who notoriously asked for a translation of “nine meters” into English, and has the irksome habit of delivering every report like its his last. Or, in other words, a guy who a lot of people already didn’t like. And a few days ago, he might have climbed a few spots on people’s shitlists for his statement that a lot of the people who run TV networks are Jewish, and, for challenging the notion that the adversities Jewish people face in this country are somehow the same as ones he has faced as a Hispanic person:

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.

Is this exchange between Sanchez and Dominick the typical (and rather pointless) who-has-it-harder-than-who debate? Or was Sanchez trying, and failing, to make a point about the ways in which even people from historically marginalized groups can access power? (<– A point which, from the looks of it, would include him.)

It is unfortunate that what could have been a valuable conversation on race, power and media–particularly coming from a pretty successful news personality who looks white–was muddied by Sanchez's poor judgment and bad delivery. And that some of his more interesting points, including how a lot of the stories on FOX are intended to appeal to angry white men, were overshadowed by his preoccupation with being bullied by Jon Stewart and his rash response to Dominick's assertion that Stewart is "a minority as much as" he is. On the pouty side, this incident will probably only get him made fun of a little bit more.

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