The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

I Miss Rick Sanchez (And Not Because He’s Hispanic!)

Posted by demkid on January 3, 2011

There’s something missing from CNN in the new year.  Actually, there are many things missing from CNN these days, including decent ratings, but I’m specifically referring to Rick Sanchez, who was fired 3 months ago for making controversial comments on the Stand Up With Pete Dominick radio show.  You can listen to the full interview here, but I’m sure most of you know that Rick called Jon Stewart a bigot, scoffed at the idea that Jews could be considered a minority group, and indirectly stated that Jews control both CNN and the cable news media.  Should Rick have been fired for these comments?  Jon Stewart doesn’t think so, and neither do I.  People have been kept on the air recently after making much more disturbing comments (Tucker Carlson calling for Michael Vick’s execution is just one example.)

Rick seems like a genuinely nice guy who had one of the more unique and entertaining shows on cable news.  He was the first to really incorporate social media into his program in an attempt to better connect with his viewers.  His show was quirky, fun, and fairly informal, just like its host, and this is what opened both up to numerous jokes by people from Jon Stewart to personalities at his own network (see here).  In my opinion, the reason why Rick got into trouble in the first place, is that he wasn’t very introspective.  Instead of recognizing the fact that people made fun of him, or used his material on slow news days, because he was Rick Sanchez, the “what does 9 meters mean in English/please taze me” guy, he incorrectly concluded that he was being slighted because he was Rick Sanchez, the Hispanic.  I have no doubt that he felt genuinely discriminated against in the past because of his ethnicity, and that he saw tons of discrimination growing up as a poor kid in Florida, but he simply failed to recognize that the jokes about him in his professional career were coming because of what he DID, not because of who he IS.  He unfortunately didn’t realize that because of his personality and unscripted nature of his show, he was bound to create clips that could be used later by others for comedic purposes.  Here is a full collection of clips from The Daily Show that poke fun at Rick.  None of these bring his ethnicity into play.  I guess my main point is that Rick needs to have a thicker skin when it comes to others’ comments about him.  He needs to learn to laugh at himself.  He needs to understand that the old bigotry of his childhood has been eclipsed by legitimate professional criticism of his performance as a man who’s done extremely well for himself in his career.  He should be commended for his success and I hope that he’s taken some of his time off to reflect on the misguided reasoning of his recent comments.  Just as Jon Stewart poked fun at Rick because he’s Rick, without regard to ethnicity, I miss him being on CNN for the same reason.  He’s one of a kind.

On a related note, a new website has sprung up: Friends of Rick Sanchez.  Unfortunately, I think it does Rick more harm than good.  In my opinion, it inflates the overall damage done to Rick, exaggerates the reaction by the media, deflects legitimate criticism of his comments, and paints Rick as a victim, not as someone who made a mistake and is working to turn things around in the new year.  A page on the site explains why it was created:

Rick is a good man with a long history of success in the television industry.  We created this site because we don’t believe a man’s life should be judged by one misconstrued moment, one interview, one soundbite taken out of context.  We believe that runaway headlines shouldn’t malign someone’s reputation, leaving him unemployed and ruined.

The claims that his comments were “misconstrued” and that a soundbite was taken out of context are generally false, and just don’t serve any purpose in helping Rick recover from the incident.  Arguing over what he may or may not have said or meant, especially when his comments are clear to any objective listener, is a foolish idea, as this focuses people on those past comments and not what Rick is doing to become a better person in the present and future.  Just for the record, because Friends of Rick doesn’t think he said anything about Jewish control of media, listen to 11:10 – 11:22 of the full Mediaite clip.  He states:

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.

Notice how he says “the people in this country who are Jewish,” not “the people in this country who are white, elitist liberals.”  I also think it’s way too early to claim that Rick Sanchez is “ruined.”  I hope that he would agree with me on this one!  Furthermore, Friends of Rick, instead of following the lead of Rick himself by being apologetic, saying he had a chip on his shoulder, saying he was “too impetuous” to control himself, and taking full responsibility for his actions, has decided to deflect criticism back onto the interviewer!

It was wrong for Rick to allow the interviewer to steer this into a discussion about Jewish-Americans, allowing him to make the false argument that minorities, simply by virtue of being minorities, can’t be prejudiced.

Friends of Rick also asks readers to ponder how “Jon Stewart’s religion was injected into the interview . . . .”  First, Pete Dominick by no means “steered” or “injected” Judaism into the interview.  He simply mentioned this to answer Rick’s assertion that Stewart made fun of him simply because of his own minority status.  Rick was the one who then decided to scoff at the idea of Jews being a minority group and continued by alluding to Jewish control of CNN and other networks.  Again, no purpose is served by attempting to blame others for your own actions.  I think Rick would also agree with this, and should be commended by taking full responsibility in several interviews.

Finally, I strongly disagree with Friends of Rick painting Rick as a victim in this whole incident and aftermath.  Under their “Where’s Rick?” page, they state:

It’s fair to say that Rick was blindsided by all of this.  One day, you’ve got a job you love.  The next, you get a phone call finding out you’re unemployed.  In an instant, Rick’s life changed. Unfortunately, it’s a story that gets played out everyday in this country.  Many others know exactly how Rick feels, and he now knows exactly how they feel too.

I would first direct the Friends of Rick creators to an interview Rick gave to Mediaite shortly after his firing.  This is the Rick that should be featured on the page.  In the interview, he restates his legitimate criticisms of the media (part ideological, part milquetoast), questions the lack of minorities in primetime, and takes full responsibility for his words (“I made a mistake, I said some things I shouldn’t have, I insulted people. And they deserve a direct apology from me.”)  He also tells how he was anything but “blindsided by all of this.”  He knew there’d be a reaction to the interview:

Yeah, I did. I even knew it as I was into it. But I was too impetuous to control myself. I should have been a little more careful. But yeah I kind of knew. I even told my wife when I got home, I said, ‘I just did an interview and I kind of went off on some things I shouldn’t have said.’ So yeah, I knew.

To say that what happened to Rick is an everyday story in this country and that Rick knows exactly how people feel and vice versa, is an unfortunate statement and one that clearly wasn’t well thought-out.  Rick had a terrific show on CNN.  CNN trusted him enough to even add it as a primetime fill-in, before the debut of Parker/Spitzer.  Rick’s rise over the years was a great story, especially knowing where he came from.  However, as Rick explained, he made a mistake.  He insulted people.  He did something wrong, and doesn’t blame his employer for taking the action they did.  To compare this to the story of a regular worker in the United States who gets laid off in bad economic times is frankly insulting to those people.  “Many others” don’t know what it’s like to be a successful personality on a top cable network.  “Many others” don’t know what it’s like to publicly make controversial comments that results in being let go from that network.  This isn’t a story that gets played out everyday.  It’s unique to Rick Sanchez, and it should be stated as such.

A much better approach would be to state that we all make mistakes in our lives, some more serious than others, and its how we come back from those mistakes that really shows our true character.  Americans like comeback stories.  Here’s hoping that Friends of Rick Sanchez focuses more on Rick as a person, keeps us updated on his progress, and follows their namesake by acknowledging past mistakes while not making excuses for them.  Most importantly, here’s hoping that Rick is among the list of successful comeback stories in 2011.  We hope he’s on the air again, soon!

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9 Responses to “I Miss Rick Sanchez (And Not Because He’s Hispanic!)”

  1. rick sanchez said

    I am so impressed with the thoughtfulness of this description of my folly. Just know there is a huge separation between what I said, as perceived or otherwise, and who I am. I wish I could rip out my heart and let everyone see for himself or herself what I truly feel and believe.

  2. Judy Taylor said

    I do miss Rick. What happened, happened, but he was a nice guy who didn’t derserved to be fired. There are a lot of others in the media who ought to be thrown out, but they are still around to spew their garbage and be rewarded.
    Hang in there, Rick.

  3. Liz Page said

    While Rick’s integration of new media into his show was excellent, the thing that made it not work for me at CNN was the frequent dumbing down of the news and, at times, wild speculation. This may have made the news more appealing to some, but it didn’t work for me. I think there are definitely networks that would benefit from his enthusiasm, but, imho, holding down the day shift at CNN was not the place for him.

  4. AmySabato said

    The reason, IMO, that Rick is being punished for his mistake is BECAUSE he is Hispanic. I don’t know how much longer we will be without him on tv, or whether he can’t come back due to a no-compete clause. However, I will tell you that especially in this day and age, things and people move on very quickly and I hope that Rick Sanchez won’t soon be forgotten as another popular TV host with a unique idea. If we don’t get Rick back on tv soon, it’ll be another “Rick who?” situation. I, for one, shudder to think of another successful Cuban
    American being shut down. It’s been three months already.

  5. demkid said

    I have no doubt that you’re a genuine guy, Rick, who probably just had a bad day and let your emotions get the best of you. I hope your support site can talk more about who you are as a person instead of dwelling on the past! If Jon Stewart likes you, doesn’t think your comments were that bad, and doesn’t think you should have been fired, I think that speaks for itself. You got a bad deal. Come back strong!

  6. Joelintexas said

    Hang in there Rick. HisPanics are proud of you and no longer a minority. Great job come Back CNN needs you and hispanic viewers.Comeback to cover hurricanes in 2011

  7. Michael said

    Rick Sanchez is a tool. He claims to be a minority….. uhh, ok. He is a white Cuban. He is white, just like Conan O’Brien is white. Glad to see that Señor Sanchez is off the air.

  8. […] an endorsement for The Bright Coast’s fabulous Twitter feed (see below)!  If you recall, I recently commented on the events surrounding Rick’s firing from CNN and discussed my opposition to some of the […]

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