Rick Sanchez talks to Post about offensive remarks

Rick Sanchez
Former CNN Anchor, Author
Monday, October 11, 2010; 11:30 AM

Rick Sanchez, the former CNN news anchor, said that he "screwed up" on ABC's Good Morning America when he called Jon Stewart a "bigot" and made comments that some view as anti-Semitic in a Sirius/XM radio. Sanchez also asserted that he had been the victim of discrimination at the cable news network.

Cable news, Parker Spitzer and the color question: Is Rick Sanchez right?

Sanchez was online Monday, Oct. 11, at 11:30 a.m. ET to discuss the controversy and his book, "Conventional Idiocy: Why the New America is Sick of Old Politics."


Rick Sanchez: Hi I'm Rick Sanchez. I'm so glad to be able to answer your questions and begin what I believe is a very important national conversation.


Denver, Colo.: When other notable personalities expressed racist views, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, etc., did you cut them as much slack, either on-the-air or in your own mind, as you seem to be asking us to cut you?

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for the question.

My comments were very different from the comments expressed by Gibson and Green. I did not bring religion into the conversation during my comments. I was only answering a question from the interviewer who suggested that Jewish people are not capable of being prejudiced. I argued inartfully that all of us are capable of being prejudiced whether we are Jewish, African American, Asian or Hispanic. My broader point is about empowerment and how whenever we find ourselves in a position of power it's incumbent on all of us to try to understand those who are not.

More often than not this is not something we do intentionally; it's subconscious but it's important.


Grand Rapids, Mich.: Prior to your comments about Jon Stewart and Jews in the media/entertainment industry, were you aware of the history of anti-Semitism in the U.S. in certain major industries (e.g. commercial banking; automobile) which, in turn, led to many American Jews turning to, and indeed helping to create, newer industries (e.g. investment banking; media/entertainment). How might knowledge of that history have effected your mindset about Jews two weeks ago? Do you think such history matters today?

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for your question. It's important to note that comments were made during an interview that lasted almost an hour. Much of what people have heard have been just snippets from that conversation so I can understand why many have taken offense to those selected comments and I truly apologize for them. However, it's very important to take into consideration that I have spent a large part of my career confronting anti-Semites. As Jon Stewart showed during a clip on The Daily Show last Monday, my record is replete with instances where I've chased down neo-Nazis, called out Aryan nation leaders and taken on the KKK. It's all there, something any Lexus-Nexus search will illustrate. That's important.


Urbana, Ill.: In terms of "discrimination" does Mr. Sanchez believe that he was selected by CNN because he is good looking or does he believe that he would have been chosen if he were not handsome? Is this discrimination?

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for the question. I don't see myself in any way as other than suburban dad with four kids, a beautiful wife and a devotion to them and my god. I'm humbled by your suggestion but I do not believe that my looks have had an effect on my marketability.

Here's my broader point that doesn't seem to be understood: People of all persuasions are often minimized today in our society. As a Christian I find that sometimes I am minimized. As a southerner I sometimes find that I am minimized. African Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, Hispanics ... we are all minimized from time to time. It's not intentional. And it's not confined to any one company or any one group. It's simply important to state that we're living during some very angry times in this country and there's vitriol both on the left and on the right. All I'm asking for is more understanding and more cooperation for the good of our country.


Naples, Fla.: I am very upset that you are gone. Was a thorough investigation made to determine if Stewart really is a bigot? Or was the decision made to back Stewart because he is popular? Only you and other Hispanics, women, African Americans and Asians know when the establishment does not want them being equal. This needs a deep look into. Will you be back on TV? I sure hope so. Good luck.

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for the question and for the support.

Let me make this perfectly clear. I was the one who screwed up by answering the interviewer's questions in such a mangled and inartful way. I created this firestorm by being tired and careless. I was trying to get across the broader point, which I mention in my book, Conventional Idiocy, about the media. And here's the point: There are two types of media today. There are those who are ideologues on the left and the right who do nothing but attack each other. And there are those who go on TV and perform their job like mainstream milquetoasts and say nothing. It's important that we find a better way. It's important that we find common ground. Because while we're arguing among ourselves our political system has become more corrupt than ever and many of our business institutions are robbing us blind.

We're living in a "gotcha" time where comments like mine are blown up while the bigger, more important issues of our day are ignored. This, too, is what I discuss in my book, Conventional Idiocy.


Westlake, Ohio: Okay, Mr. Sanchez, you have a distinct style that invited some satire and yes, the tasing was a bit "over the top," but your show was great to watch because you brought a distinct Hispanic presence that mass media definitely needed to see and hear. Now that you are off the air, do you see anyone (not including the Spanish-speaking media) tapping into those vast resources that non-Spanish speaking Hispanics (and non-Hispanic) media consumers need to hear from?

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for your question.

It's not just about Hispanics, it's about all of us. If I have in any way helped to start a conversation about how we as a country begin treating each other, no matter where we come from, then maybe some good will come of this. It is true though that today's media landscape for prime-time news is not very diverse. In fact, there is not -- as far as I can tell -- a single African American nor Hispanic nor Asian American host on a major U.S. network doing a newscast. That's unsettling.

This does not mean in any way, shape or form, that people should be given jobs based on their religion or ethnicity but it does make one pause as to whether there is a true representation of our society in the media.


Nashville, Tenn.: Do you feel the media's coverage of your comments about Stewart and subsequent dismissal from CNN has been fair? It seems like the media has boiled it down to a Stewart vs. Sanchez type of coverage. Would you be willing to go on The Daily Show to discuss this issue and resolve your differences?

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for your question.

Yes I would. I called Jon. In fact it was the very first phone call I made after my distasteful comments. He and I agree on many more things than we disagree. And I would look forward to having future conversations with him and I would be willing to apologize to him on-air.


Rick Sanchez: As for the media coverage, I can't control what people write or say. All I can do is make myself available to anyone who wants to talk to me and hear my message because I have absolutely nothing to hide.


Detroit, Mich.: How has the last couple of weeks changed you?

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for the question.

It has made me understand that words matter, even more so than what I thought. These are very tough times for me and my family. It's very painful to go through what I'm going through and I wake up at night seemingly anxiety-ridden over prospects for my future. But I know in my heart that I am not the person who some are describing or perceiving. I simply made a mistake which I now must atone for. I will say this. My love for my family -- my relationship with my wife and my friends -- is the one thing that is helping me cope enormously.


New York, N.Y.: Had any talks with CNN, Fox News or anyone else about a new job yet?

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for the question.

At this point all I want to do is take some time off so that I can get through this and be with my wife and kids.

I am flattered by the number of calls that my representatives have received about my future employment. Then I will sit down with my representatives and comb through any of those possibilities.

Every time I was on television we had an impact. Every time I was on television my show had an impact, both from a performance standpoint and a ratings standpoint. Yes, I know some people sometimes thought I was too exuberant, maybe too passionate. But that's who I am, it's my style.

I relish the opportunity of being able to once again be host a show on television or on radio to make people think. In the meantime though I will concentrate on my publishing efforts by sitting down to pen another book about this experience and continue to promote my latest book, Conventional Idiocy.


Washington, D.C.: I read that Jon Stewart has featured you for ridicule on his program about 20 times in recent years. What's his problem with you?

Rick Sanchez: Thank you for the question.

I have taken to heart some of Jon Stewart's criticisms and I asked Jon about that last week. He said, "Rick, I'm a comedian and the only reason I focused on you was because I like you."

Maybe I just never saw it that way. Maybe I was too thin-skinned. I blamed it on Jon's prejudice and that was wrong. But here is my point: Oftentimes the ridiculing was simply baseless. I was ridiculed for not knowing how many inches or feet in ten meters. I didn't think that was fair, because it happened during a breaking news story and frankly I'm not good with the metric system.

I also believe the story I did where I was tasered was unjustly criticized. If you watched the entire story which, it seems no one who has criticized it has, you'd see that it was a very important report. Why? Because it showed how guards who transport prisoners should not have holstered guns on them. They should use tasers.

I was told at the police academy during my report that all recruits, all cadets, must be tasered before graduating. That it's the only way they can learn just how effective or ineffective tasers are. So I allowed myself to be tasered to demonstrate how they work.

Reporters from the New York Times to NPR on down have all done the same thing. But only I was ridiculed for it excessively. I'm sorry, but that's how I felt.


Rick Sanchez: I'd like the thank The Washington Psot for giving me the opportunity to have this conversation and I will continue to be as transparent, as honest and as forthright as I possibly can be in dealing with this difficult time for me and my family. My six years at CNN were fantastic. They were good to me and I wish them well. And I miss working there. But in the meantime you can reach out to me at my new Twitter address: ricksbook. God bless.


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