CNN Firing, Rutgers Suicide Stir Online Audience

Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Producer Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," comb through listener feedback and offer important news updates to recent conversations heard on the program. Hear reaction to a recent host commentary that questioned what really led Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi to kill himself, and hear what listeners are saying in response to the abrupt firing of CNN anchor Rick Sanchez.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here with me as usual. Hey Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Your commentary this week focused on the recent suicide death of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi. Now his death came days after learning that word of an intimate same-sex encounter was made public allegedly by his roommate and another peer. And Michel, you suggested that a hyper-sexual culture enabled by technology is partially to blame. Here's part of your commentary from this week's CAN I JUST TELL YOU.

MARTIN: So much of technological innovation has outstripped the moral code to regulate it. And thus too many people have become convinced that relationships are a matter of performance art. Why else do young people send under-dressed pictures of themselves to each other? Videotape their sexual exploits and broadcast them on social media?

HILL: As usual lots of people went online to respond to your commentary and also weigh in on Tyler Clementi's death. Here's a post that we received from Penny(ph). She writes: Technology made this outing possible on a grand scale but the evil that the two students enacted had nothing to do with technology. They would have found some way to bully Tyler Clementi. They are mean. They have no conscience, no empathy, no feelings, and no sense of propriety. I have nothing but disgust for them, she says.

MARTIN: And Lee, we also received this post from Chase(ph). He writes: My theory on why this happened was derived from my time as a young, black, closeted gay man in my freshman year of college. I had heard many times being gay was bad from my parents, church, private school educators and friends. My greatest fear at that time was the discovery of my sexuality by others.

I do appreciate all the people who wrote in to give us their perspective on this and some shared some very personal stories. I do appreciate that.

Lee, what else?

HILL: And now switching gears a bit, Michel. This week we also talked about the firing of CNN anchor Rick Sanchez. And his departure was announced the day after he criticized his bosses and called late-night comedian Jon Stewart a bigot in a radio interview. Here's Rick Sanchez in the clip behind the controversy.

Mr. RICK SANCHEZ (Host, CNN's "Rick's List): People who are not minorities understand that those of us who are, and very few of us will say the things that I've just said, are actually more complex than they think we are...

Unidentified Man: And who's a minority as much as you are?

Mr. SANCHEZ: Hey come on?

Unidentified Man: How is he a minority? Rick?

Mr. SANCHEZ: Yeah, yeah, very powerless people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man: Whoa...

Mr. SANCHEZ: I mean, he's such a minority, I mean, you know, please.

Unidentified Man: You're telling me that, that...

Mr. SANCHEZ: 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.

HILL: His comments drew outrage in the blogosphere and led some Jewish activists to even label him as anti-Semitic. But after our roundtable discussion with media watchers who both criticized and defended Sanchez, I caught up with listener Algeri(ph) who posted this comment to our online forum.

ALGERI: Rich Sanchez honestly told the truth as it relates to who is running the major TV networks and media outlets. Individuals can say the most outrageous and insane, bigoted things about the President and that gets a pass, particularly by a network that begins with the letter F. Yet say anything related to the lack of diverse viewpoints and you are completely 86ed. God bless the hypocrisy of America.

MARTIN: Well Algeri isn't the only person to feel that way. So - and we received a number of posts to that effect, Lee. We also received this post from blogger, Leigh(ph). I don't think she has any relation to you.

HILL: I don't think so.

MARTIN: But she writes: Good riddance Mr. Sanchez. It is textbook anti-Semitism to say that Jews are not oppressed and that they control everything. This confusion about where Jews stand in relation to power is one of the reasons anti-Semitism is so insidious. Thank you Leigh, and thank you Lee.

LEE: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. To tell us more you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log on to our website. Go to npr.org, click on Programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

(Soundbite of music)

Coming up we heard some of what you had to say about Rick Sanchez. You heard he was fired for calling Jon Stewart a bigot, railing on Jews and on his own bosses. Now he's trying to make things right or maybe just save his career.

Mr. SANCHEZ: CNN didn't screw up, Rich Sanchez screwed up. Rick Sanchez wasn't artful. Rich Sanchez unjustly accused Jon Stewart of being something he's not. I learned later that he's the classiest guy in the world, when I called him.

MARTIN: That was Rick Sanchez on "Good Morning America" this morning. Now the barbershop guys have their say. It's just ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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