UPDATED: CNN anchor Rick Sanchez has been fired from the network, CNN announced late Friday afternoon, after making controversial comments on Pete Dominick’s SiriusXM radio show Sept. 30.
“Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well,” CNN said in a statement. The network will broadcast CNN Newsroom from 3-5 p.m. for the foreseeable future.
The CNN anchor unleashed on Jon Stewart during his appearance on Dominick’s show. But it was Sanchez’s comments about Jews (Stewart is Jewish), that have caused a firestorm of controversy.
Sanchez called Stewart a “bigot” and suggested that the media, and CNN, are “run” by Jews.
“I think he looks at the world through, his mom, who was a school teacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that,” said Sanchez. “Great, I’m so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine.”
Sanchez, of course, comes in for frequent ridicule on Stewart’s Daily Show.
His conversation with Dominic - who is a CNN contributor and Stewart’s former warm-up act on the Daily Show - revolved around race-based prejudice and media bias and objectivity. (On the latter point, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow came in for criticism from Sanchez.)
Sanchez, who is Cuban-American, also asserted that he’s been the target of prejudice because of his ethnicity.
“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,” he said.
When Dominic suggested that Jews have endured similar societal prejudice, Sanchez scoffed.
“Yeah,” said Sanchez, sarcastically. “Very powerless people… He’s such a minority… 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.”
It’s the Howard Beale era. And Sanchez’s conversation with Dominic is in keeping with what seems like universal epidemic of fear and loathing brought on by the recession. And while the media in general long ago has shed much pretense toward civility, this is one angry rant that CNN did not need at this time.
It’s new president Ken Jautz’s first week on the job at CNN. On Monday the network will launch the first of two new programs - Parker/Spitzer - that it hopes will stem its viewer hemorrhage in primetime. But the addition to the CNN payroll of Eliot Spitzer - who resigned as governor of New York amid a prostitution scandal - has been the subject of ongoing criticism.
At a time when CNN executives are attempting to turn the page on controversy and dig themselves out of a perception and ratings hole, Sanchez digs them another one.