Rick Sanchez’s anti-Semitic implosion

When Helen Thomas said Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine,” I thought her canning was warranted. But there was room for debate about whether her statement that they should go back to “Poland, Germany … and America and everywhere else” was anti-Semitic. Paired with her previous treatment of Israel in the opinioneering she did for UPI, I argued the statement was. But, again, room for debate.

Not so with (former) CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, whose rant Thursday against Jon Stewart and other Jews who run the media was swiftly met by CNN with a pink slip. Sanchez’s comments to radio host Pete Dominick were abjectly racist. If you haven’t heard already, Sanchez called Stewart a “bigot” and then said this:

“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.”

Not surprising that Jon Stewart has had a little fun with this or that CNN cut ties with its long-time anchor.

It’s no secret or mystery or part of a Jewish conspiracy that Jews are vastly overrepresented in the upper echelons of the American media — both in terms of journalism and entertainment companies. (For centuries in the Old Country, journalism, like law and medicine, were professions that educated Jews tended toward because they were conducive to the transitory lives of a traditionally persecuted people.) As I’ve written before:

If Jews really worked in media to get out a unified message at the expense of their gentile neighbors, they sure do a poor job.

But pointing that out is not what undid Sanchez. Because that isn’t what he did. As almost a non sequitur, Sanchez just had to get off his chest that the Jews were breathing down his back. In the process, he played into one of the most-pervasive canards about Jews since Gutenberg invented his printing press.

Howard Kurtz of Reliable Sources has a look at Sanchez’s inability to accept Stewart’s slights like other pundits do — kudos Bill O’Reilly — “those comments we can agree were offensive.”

A little. I’m more shocked than offended. I’m sure a lot of journalists hold personal opinions that would not be appreciated in polite society. I hope, at the very least, that such opinions stay out of their reporting. Here Sanchez, against whom the greatest criticism was that he’s probably a little too caffeinated, went from 0 to 60 in no time.

I like what my former colleague Danielle Berrin, who writes the Hollywood Jew blog, had to say before Sanchez got canned by those Jews who run CNN:

As we’ve seen in recent months, any insinuation of Jewish media domination explodes across public discourse like Fourth of July fireworks. Even though the notion of domination is quite silly since in today’s media world there are more diverse and competing voices than ever before. But let’s just say a disproportionate number of Jews hold positions of power in media: What’s so terrible? Is it making Jews more Jewish? Is it encouraging mass conversion to Judaism? Is it bringing Israelis and Palestinians any closer to peace?

No: It’s bringing you “Mad Men” and “Modern Family”, “The Daily Show” and “The Social Network”. And it’s also given Rick Sanchez a soapbox on one of the most watched news networks in the world. Shame on those Jews.

Sanchez has yet to make any statement. Even his Twitter account has been silent.

It’s surprising that after four days Sanchez has felt no need to apologize and try to save a little face. But, really, what could he possibly say?

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  • Roberto

    Sanchez’s story is sad but, in some ways, not that surprising. When people complain about “the media” there’s often a conspiratorial tone or tinge to their narrative, as if some inner “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is waiting to come out. They have trouble distinguishing between getting things wrong, a failure in perspective or even simple disagreement and malign motives in furtherance of an “agenda.”

  • http://lakeneuron.com John I. Carney

    One detail I’ve yet to see mentioned, although it’s a small one. At one point, a weekly international edition of “The Daily Show” was distributed by CNN International (but omitted from the U.S. feed of that channel, so as not to conflict with Comedy Central’s rights). I don’t know if that’s still the case or not; if so, it puts a very slightly different spin on CNN’s reaction and should have been at least mentioned in passing.

  • Stephen

    Sanchez may have been reading all the conservative accounts of how the liberal media is anti-Christian. It is only a small leap from there to conspiracy theories and to portraying oneself as a victim of Jewish-controlled media.

    The thing that struck me about the radio interview is how defensive Sanchez was and how he felt he had somehow not been granted the respect he thought he deserved as a Cuban-born anchor. He wanted to identify himself as somehow oppressed, though it is difficult to see how Cuban-Americans as a group are any more oppressed as Jewish Americans. Both groups clearly experience a level of discrimination, but they have both been very high achievers in the United States. Somehow I think this embrace of victimization is related to the recent attempt of conservatives to paint themselves as victims of discrimination, whether from the “lame street media” or by hate crime laws.

  • Dave G.

    Somehow I think this embrace of victimization is related to the recent attempt of conservatives to paint themselves as victims of discrimination, whether from the “lame street media” or by hate crime laws.

    Doubtful. I’ve been hearing folks claim ‘discriminated and victimized group’ since I’ve been paying attention. We live in a country that’s very sensitive about discrimination, and very suspicious of people whose best argument is ‘the majority of the people say so.’ Perhaps that’s why so many over the years claim to be victims or this or that other group that has the power. Who knows? But as far as I’m aware, it’s been going on for the last several decades.

  • Dave

    I agree with my name-mate. Playing this flavor of the victim card is a move of long standing.

  • Matt

    Please correct me if I have misread Sanchez’ comments, but it seems to me that the context is not being properly understood. Sanchez was not trying to make a point about Jews dominating the media, he was trying to make a point about Hispanics like himself being persecuted, with his real target being Stewart’s longtime antagonism of him. It was the interviewer who brought up the Jews, asking whether Stewart (as a Jew) might be just as much a persecuted minority as Sanchez. Sanchez was dismissive of this, saying that Jews are not much of a persecuted minority at least in the world of entertainment.

    Now, that may have been an infelicitous choice of words to say the least, but it does not seem appropriate to tag Sanchez as a conspiracy theorist or to trot out the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Am I missing something here?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Sadly, for some people to see a name that is Jewish in the media or to learn that a person in the media is Jewish is, in their warped minds, one Jew too many.
    There is another aspect, though, to the media situation. Everyone seems to agree, even here, that many Jewish
    people are involved in the media. And since the mass media tends, in general, to be quite liberal–to say the least– people who vigorously criticize the media for its liberal lop-sidedness are sometimes attacked unfairly and slanderously for being anti-Semitic.
    Yet, I don’t think the vast, overwhelming majority of those that see and vigorously oppose the media’s liberalism is motivated by anti-Semitism. But, unfortunately some liberals use the anti-Semitic card to squelch ideological opponents, just as some also use the racist card to try to shut up opposition to what many deem the extremely radical policies of the Obama Administration.

  • JJ

    As an Orthodox Jew and politically conservative, I see most Jews in the media as being of a liberal bent. Liberalism often replaces Judaism as the religion of choice since it is more univeralistic/utopian in the short term. I believe that if Rick Sanchez had quickly explained what he meant with a half-decent apology for being misunderstood, this all could have gone away very quickly.

  • Izzy

    The real story that the article missed is that CNN’s statement was so passive that it made it seem that Sanchez had done nothing wrong. Why didn’t CNN’s statement say that no anti-ethnic speech will be tolerated? Instead their statement said nothing!

  • other Chris

    How was his statement anti-semitic? The “tone”? Good grief. If he has a beef, it shouldn’t be against Jews. His beef should be with society as a whole. There is no way the average Jew over-reacted to this the way the goyim have.

    So, now it is socially unacceptable to whine in public. I guess I can get behind that.

  • Peggy

    Being fired is the best thing that’s happened to Rick Sanchez. No one ever heard of him before this.

  • ActaNonVerba

    Jewish people are, pound for pound, the most well off people in the United States. A great percentage are college educated and have professional occupations. They are incredibly disproportionately represented in government and the media. what’s the freaking big whoop? Everybody knows this. At worst, these simple facts tend to suggest high achievement and perhaps a bit of nepotism, not too bad really. But, when you fire someone for pointing it out it looks EVIL and oppressive.

  • Dave G.

    So, now it is socially unacceptable to whine in public. I guess I can get behind that.

    The more I hear the quote, and the more I hear the discussion, the less comfortable I feel about what happened. I’ve long maintained that Sanchez was, well, not the brightest bulb in the carton. But that he got fired for this, when some pretty off color statement have been made about him, and are often made about other groups in media debates, gives me pause.

  • Stephen

    The problem with what Sanchez said was, for his employers, not what he said about Jon Stewart, but what he said about them. It is not too smart to criticize your employers so openly, particularly when people are getting fired left and right at CNN. It was probably the case that CNN executives were planning to fire him in any case and this incident gave them the perfect opportunity to do so.

    As to his comment about Jews, it may well be that Jews are high achievers, as are Cuban-Americans and gay men. But being high achievers does not necessarily protect a group from discrimination; it often inspires envy and worse. And considering the history of Jews being punished for high achievement, it is particularly scary when the Jewish presence in media is used as a kind of accusation. During the Civil Rights era, segregationists regularly accused Jews of using Hollywood and the news media, which they allegedly controlled, to destroy the Southern Way of Life.

  • Jon in the Nati, interested Gentile

    As an Orthodox Jew and politically conservative, I see most Jews in the media as being of a liberal bent. Liberalism often replaces Judaism as the religion of choice since it is more univeralistic/utopian in the short term.

    Not only that, but if I were you, it would offend me more than a little bit be an Orthodox (or otherwise traditional) Jew and be lumped in with ultra-liberal or secular Jews with whom you have little in common.

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Dave G. says:

    The more I hear the quote, and the more I hear the discussion, the less comfortable I feel about what happened.

    And so it begins …

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    Brad,
    I’m so embarrassed to say I don’t understand this either. But, I, too, would appreciate if if you would explain why Sanchez was let go. You write:

    Sanchez just had to get off his chest that the Jews were breathing down his back. In the process, he played into one of the most-pervasive canards about Jews since Gutenberg invented his printing press.

    I don’t get it. I’ve never heard of this “breathing down his back” canard. I’m pretty sure Sanchez didn’t use that expression. And I’m not sure how it relates to anything. So, what do you mean by “breathing down his back”?

    And what is the “most-pervasive canards about Jews since Gutenberg invented his printing press”?

    Also, in what way are Jews an oppressed minority in the USA?

    I do realize Jews are victims of a large amount of hate crimes. I’m not sure what sort of people do that. But I am thinking they are not the elite or the upperclass. I’m, thinking that, in comparison to their proportion to the general population, Jews are a large percent of the “upper class” and the “elite opinion makers” in this country. Why is it wrong to point that out?

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    The canard is that Jews run the media. That’s what I was referring to, and what Sanchez apparently believes. I agree that Jews are not an oppressed minority in the US, but saying that was not what got Sanchez in trouble. It was, again, espousing a “Protocols”-like sentiment about Jewish media control.

  • Jon in the Nati

    Also, in what way are Jews an oppressed minority in the USA?

    They may not be now; such a matter is very much open to discussion. To me, though, it seems beyond dispute that Jews in the United States have historically been an oppressed minority; this is particularly true in the colonial and early American (pre-Civil War) era, when Jews were banned from many professions including medicine, law and teaching. During the Civil War, then-General Grant expelled Jews from areas of the South under the military control of the Union Army. Populist politics in the late 1800s were often tinged with antisemitism, and through the 1950′s many major private universities colluded to reduce the number of Jews admitted to their programs.

    So, yeah, American Jews may be an upper-class and well-educated demographic today, historically this has been far from the case.

  • Dave G.

    And so it begins …

    And so what begins?

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    The questioning of whether what Sanchez said was really all that bad.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    The irony for me is that people who support the firing say Sanchez is too” thin-skinned”. But if he got fired for saying what he did, doesn’t that mean there are a lot of Jews in positions of power who are too “thin-skinned” as well?

    Clearly Jews were historically oppressed and discriminated against. And there is virulent hatred of Israel by many. But we should be able to discuss what Sanchez said and discuss whether or not it was so bad. If the discussion is “off the table”, that makes me wonder if the people who want it “off the table” are hiding something.

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Ugh. The discussion is not “off the table.” I have, and remain happy to discuss it. Same goes for my former colleagues at The Jewish Journal. Here’s an example.

    But Sanchez wasn’t discussing anything. He was venting frustration about the Big Mean Jew Jon Stewart who was picking on him, and who, by Sanchez’s logic, got where he is because he is beloved by all the other Big Mean Jews who run the American news media. Scapegoating, maybe. But, regardless, it is quite different than debating or even criticizing the prevalence and role of American Jews in the MSM.

  • Matt

    Three questions:
    1) Did Sanchez bring up the fact that Stewart is Jewish, or was it the interviewer?
    2) Was Sanchez talking about a supposed Jewish conspiracy out to get him, or was he saying that Hispanics have more of a claim than Jews to the label of oppressed minority?
    3) If it was the latter, is that just as bad, bad but not quite as bad, or not bad at all?

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    Hi Brad,

    You seem to be opening this thread saying there is no room for debate here:

    Paired with her previous treatment of Israel in the opinioneering she did for UPI, I argued the statement was. But, again, room for debate.

    Not so with (former) CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, whose rant Thursday against Jon Stewart and other Jews who run the media was swiftly met by CNN with a pink slip.

    And then in the comment thread you seem to be reiterating that when you wrote “And so it begins” as if your real issue is that you don’t want this conversation. It seems like you opened saying no room for debate and reiterated by that weird “So it begins” comment, then say “Who, me?” when you write “I have and remain happy to discuss it.”

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    I’m usually only this hard to follow with the spoken word. There is a healthy discussion to be had about Jews in the media. There is no debating that what Sanchez said was anti-Semitic.

  • Matt

    Yes, there is no question that to say “Jews run the media and they’re out to get me” is anti-Semitic. My question (which you seem to be ignoring) is whether that’s what Sanchez actually said. Is that really beyond debate as well?

  • Dave G.

    The questioning of whether what Sanchez said was really all that bad.

    In today’s environment, yep. When you have the same network that fired him say ‘he’s more white than a white guy. If it wasn’t for his name you wouldn’t even know he was Hispanic’, it does make you wonder why what he said deserved firing. I’ve heard other people say things about other groups with much more vitriol and hate. No firing. My concern isn’t that what he said was not bad. Or stupid. My concern is that we seem to have varying levels of sensitivity about who such statements can and can’t be aimed at. Some more consistency would make me happier. Or if there is some standard of ‘go ahead, nail those people to the wall, but don’t say this or that’, I’d like to know what it is. Especially when CNN, the same day they discuss Sanchez, then goes ahead and interviews Bill Maher as a serious political observer. That’s Bill ‘all conservative Christians are a bunch of extremist loons who want to take over the country’ Maher.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    So I wonder why Sanchez didn’t even get reprimanded for lying about Rush Limbaugh and claiming he said something in support of slavery. How come that’s totally fine — inventing racist quotes on air to smear someone you don’t like politically — but the words about Stewart are a fireable offense?

  • Norman

    Jews may not be presently oppressed, but the idea that Jews covertly control the country/world through media dominance is an anti-Semitic sentiment, and a legitimate cause for concern when it crops up.

    Did Sanchez say this? I think so. You could parse words and say that Fr. Coughlan never explicitly engaged in anti-Semitism, but we all know better. Read between the lines here. We all know better.

  • Norman

    Remember, it wasn’t just that Sanchez said there are a lot of Jews in media, but that *they were against him for being an unpliable outsider*.

  • Stephen A.

    To be honest, Rick Sanchez’s show was idiotic, and as pointed out by Mollie in her example, he was politically biased. And that was just one example.

    I actually think he was just grasping at straws to explain why this guy was going after his lousy show, and as liberals do, ended up with race as a logical reason.

    His sacking does, however, add fuel to a certain fire, in that he has said idiotic things against MANY groups over the years, most of them non-liberals, but when he seems to offend “The Jews” he’s canned – immediately. Why THAT group, and not Christians, Republicans or any others he’s offended? It may be true that, as was said above, he was about to be canned for putting on a lousy show. But the timing will likely indicate to racists that a Cabal had ‘ordered’ it.

    Frankly, it’s indisputable that Jews are ‘well-represented’ in the media. But is this even a religious statement, or just a demographic one? How many liberal, ethnically Jewish people that are in media management positions or reporting jobs are OBSERVANT Jews? And of those who are, how many are Orthodox or Conservative, rather than Reform?

    It’s hard to see a “Cabal” of religious Jews running the media, but easy to see liberals who happen to be ethically Jewish working alongside like-minded Gentiles who are also liberals-in-arms in “dominating” mainstream media. Because they do.

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    AMEN.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    I looked up cabal and found:

    ca·bal [ k? bál ]
    group of plotters: a group of conspirators or plotters, particularly one formed for political purposes
    secret plot: a secret plot or conspiracy, especially a political one
    clique: an exclusive group of people

    So, even the word cabal has the meaning of a clique. And that is all Rick Sanchez might have meant by the words:

    “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.”

    And his rapid firing could also be due to cliquishness. That is what I thought the issue was, being a minority when the people in power tend to favor, perhaps without fully realizing what they are doing or the damaging impact on the “outs”, people of their own group. Linking discussion of this to the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” seems like a straw man argument to silence discussion.


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