By now, any news junkie worth the name knows that Rick Sanchez parted ways with CNN last Friday after he went on the radio show Stand Up! With Pete Dominick and unloaded on The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and Jews in general. You can read the whole transcript of the interview here, but here's a few samples for purposes of this essay:
PD: It's a pretty strong words calling Jon Stewart a bigot calling anybody a bigot. Give me an example?
RS: That's what happens when you watch yourself on his show every day and all they ever do is call you stupid.
PD: Well if he's bigoted against the ignorant fine! If he's bigoted against the apathetic and he's being elitist saying that others are stupid, but what group specifically ... calling somebody a bigot, but against who?
RS: Anybody who's different from you are. Anybody, anybody who's not from your frame of reference. Anybody who doesn't look and sound exactly like the people that you grew up with, the people that you put on your show who always reflect somebody who's I'm bringing in to sit around me, you know who's very different from me. I mean I'm sorry but I just don't buy this thing that the only people out there who are prejudiced are the right, there's people who are prejudiced on both sides.
RS: I must have at some point. But yeah, look my point is very simple. I see stuff O'Reilly and Glenn Beck do and I say, "wow that's very discriminatory, that's very prejudicial." And I look at stuff that Colbert and Jon Stewart do and I think, "wow that's very prejudicial." So, you know we have a tendency to only look at one side. I'm saying we ought to be able to look at both sides. That's all I'm saying.
PD: I certainly agree with that but--
RS: So, if we're going to call one side bigoted, we probably got to look at the other side and say the same thing.
And then there was the second part of the interview, in which Sanchez said the bit that probably got him fired:
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]
But lets leave aside the obviously anti-Semitic a la Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Jews-secretly-run-the-world stuff. We all know that should have gone into the garbage bin of history back in 1945.
Instead, I want to look at those first two quotes from the interview. Let's take the last one first. Sanchez claims that, if we look at Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and the rest of those deeply weird, cryptofascist swine at Fox News and say, "Hey, those guys are racist assholes," we probably need to say the same thing about the other side.
Sanchez offers no real evidence for the left being as bigoted as the right. He's just so wrapped up in the golden rule of American media -- presenting both sides of any topic, even if one side of the topic is obviously evil, stupid or evil-stupid -- that he utters this phrase as if it should be taken for granted. But of course, it should not. To stay within the anti-Semitic theme, for example, if a television host discusses the Holocaust, does he have to have a Holocaust denier on? What about a member of the Flat Earth Society whenever we discuss geography? A religio-crazy anti-evolution nut whenever we discuss biology?
The point is, there are not two sides to every topic. Or if there are, one of those sides is often demonstrably, woefully wrong. And yet Sanchez seems convinced that, not only must we offer both sides of every issue, we must also assume both sides to be guilty of the same transgressions in their arguments for or against. That's not just wrong, it's stupid.
Which brings me to the first quote I pasted above. Sanchez assumed that Stewart and Colbert were both anti-Hispanic bigots because they were constantly lampooning him as an anti-intellectual, dim-witted buffoon. But they didn't do this because Sanchez is a Cuban-American -- they did it because he's an anti-intellectual, dim-witted buffoon. His ethnicity doesn't enter into it.
The list of Sanchez's idiocy is tedious to tell and harsh to hear, to paraphrase the Bard. (Note to Rick: "The Bard" is a nickname for William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare was a British playwright and poet active at the turn of the 17th Century. The 17th Century is the 1600s. A British person is from England.) Where to begin? My fellow South Floridians are more familiar with Sanchez's work than most of the country, as he worked in local stations here in the 1980s and 1990s. They'll tell you all about his squatting over maps during the Persian Gulf War, or about the time that an expert on orphaned children explained that, after losing their parents, children sometimes fill the void by overachieving, which led Rick to say brightly, "So it can be a good thing?"
In the story I just linked, the New Times Broward/Palm Beach's Bob Norman recalled that and other great faux pas from Sanchez's early career, like the time a fellow told him that he now pays 200 times what he paid for medical malpractice insurance in 1980, when he paid $800, and Sanchez replied, "Good God, that's $500,000!"
Er ... no. No it's not.
Or the time he had Jesse Jackson on his show and referred to him as "Mr. Sharpton."
There are many more examples in that story, which Norman ends by thanking MSNBC (Sanchez's employer at the time) for supplying the man with a teleprompter, and wishing fervently that it never breaks.
And it never did. But after he got to CNN, Sanchez proved that he's incapable even of proper teleprompter use.
He also thought Hawaii was just off the coast of Peru, had to ask what "9 meters" meant "in English," referred to the Great Barrier Reef as being "off the coast of Alaska," and thought Iceland was too cold for volcanoes. In that last clip, he also mentioned that when you think of volcanoes, you think of Hawaii and "other long words like that."
Sanchez built his CNN show, Rick's List, around Twitter, and the fact that Sanchez embraced, to a much greater extent than any of his contemporaries, the most facile and disposable form of communication invented by modern man should have surprised no one.
Glenn Beck referred to Sanchez as, "quite possibly the dumbest man on television," and he may have been right, Beck being his closest competition. It takes one to know one, I suppose.
Story originally appeared here, on the Web site of City Link Magazine.