Sanchez Leaves CNN After Jon Stewart Remarks

CNN on Friday announced the departure of news anchor Rick Sanchez, a day after he called Daily Show host Jon Stewart a "bigot."  Sanchez made the comment during a satellite radio show interview while promoting his new book.  Melissa Block talks with NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik about the ouster.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

CNN has given its afternoon anchor Rick Sanchez the boot. His ouster came one day after he appeared on a satellite radio show and went on a tirade against the comedian Jon Stewart. Sanchez called Stewart a bigot, bigoted toward everybody was is, quote, "not like him." And then Sanchez suggested that his own network, CNN, is run by Jews.

(Soundbite of radio show)

Unidentified Man: Are you telling me that...

Mr. RICK SANCHEZ: I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart. A lot of people who run all the other networks, they're a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow that they - that people in this country who are Jewish are a depressed minority, yeah.

BLOCK: NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now. And, David, that was an extremely terse statement from CNN that reads as follows: Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well. That's it. Walk this back for us. What happened?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Don't get caught on your way out the door, I think, is what they're saying. We're confronted with these extraordinarily insensitive, almost incendiary, remarks by Sanchez on this satellite radio show. Maybe he felt he was in a place different from cable news where he could say almost anything that came into his head. He clearly was expressing your frustration. He felt he was being picked on by the satirist Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." He felt somehow that he was being picked on.

As a way of balancing Stewart's frequent blast at FOX News, he thought there was a false equivalent. But also he felt that Jon Stewart was somehow doing this because, you know, somehow Rick Sanchez and, particularly, he felt Latinos who'd grown up perhaps in more impoverished circumstances were looked at askance by people who are perhaps middle class Jews like Jon Stewart. It's as explicit as that.

The amazing thing, in some ways, is if you think of CNN, the most recent past president just ousted, Jon Klein, himself a Jewish. He had been supportive of Sanchez. Has reached out to him earlier today and he said that the two of them had a friendly and warm relationship.

BLOCK: Rick Sanchez has been a real punching bag for Jon Stewart, but he's not getting fired because he criticized a comedian. He's getting fired because of what he alluded to about Jews.

There was a group of Holocaust survivors that issued a statement saying that Rick Sanchez had maligned the Jewish people with a classical rethread of anti-Semitic bigotry.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, and it's hard to avoid that conclusion. Sanchez may not have wanted to go there, but what he was doing in fact was arguing that Jews control the media and they do so in a way that is comfortable to them. It's an age-old slur about, you know, banking industries and finance and the Hollywood and the like. It's ugly.

And CNN, after an afternoon of silence on the topic, chose to come forth with a very terse statement and a very swift action.

BLOCK: There has been, David, a lot of shuffling at CNN. If you look at what's going on there and if you look at ratings for CNN overall, is this an operation that's in trouble?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, it couldn't come at a worst time. I mean, they just pushed out Jon Klein for that very reason. In primetime, they were having real trouble with ratings and a real blow. Sanchez had, for a while, been tried out there earlier this decade. And he had also, you know, been allowed to guest host in primetime.

Next week, they're making the premiere of what's called "Parker Spitzer," the former Governor Eliot Spitzer and the Pulitzer-winning columnist Kathleen Parker. This was not the story that CNN wanted to step on the toes of that debut.

BLOCK: NPR's David Folkenflik talking about the ouster today of CNN's anchor Rick Sanchez. David, thank very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

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