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January 21, 2011 2:53 pm

And Then I Said… Rick’s Reasons for Disastrous Remarks

avatar by Maxine Dovere

A subdued Rick Sanchez experienced several tearful moments as he sought to explain the remarks that led to his firing by CNN. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Speaking on the air with radio host Pete Dominick, Rick Sanchez called “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart a “bigot.” Stewart, he said, represents “elite, Northeast establishment liberals” who “deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier, and not the top tier.”

Rick Sanchez was fired by CNN.  The announcement was simple: “Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well.”

So, Rick Sanchez came to explain, and, perchance, to express regret.  The setting:  a small, intimate room, where even the less than overwhelming crowd of about 50 managed to create an impression of a reasonably full room; an historic synagogue, perhaps selected to lend credence and empathy to the anticipated “conversation.” Beginning with an explanation of himself within his generations – my father didn’t give me a lot but he did give me my name… I teach my children to love, not to hate,” said an emotional, tearful (in need of tissues at one point) Rick Sanchez.  “I was wrong and I apologize.”

Rick Sanchez’s story is a classic American tale of success.  His parents came to America from Cuba with two year old “Ricardo,” becoming part of the large Cuban-American community in Miami.  Language, very much the tools of Sanchez’s trade as a journalist, was a problem for his non-English speaking parents, who found themselves relegated to blue collar employment. The young Rick, enjoyed success as a student and in athletics, completing college on a football scholarship.  He landed a coveted job in broadcasting, quickly rising from local position to national prominence.  Despite all this achievement, his financial and professional accomplishment, he continued to carry what Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, his host of the evening, called a “grand chip” on his shoulder.  Perhaps offered the rabbi, Sanchez anger because “we haven’t obtained what we need to obtain.” While recognizing his “gratefulness” to the United States, the former CNN anchor said he continued to “feel like an outsider.”

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Stressing that “we’re all equally American,” Rabbi Boteach questioned whether Sanchez’s thinking and his statements were indicative of selfishness and insecurity, an overt response to the tease of Jon Stewart, who was simply using Sanchez’s own words and mistaken identification of Hawaii on a map as the basis for his (Stewart’s) joke.  “I was wounded.  I should have been able to take it,” said the mournful former anchor.

Noting that Sanchez had previously challenged an anti-Semite on the air, Stewart actually defended Sanchez saying “I think the guy’s probably got a good heart.” Stewart, whose family name was Leibowitz, grew up in a Jewish home in New Jersey.  He has noted that he experienced anti-Semitism during his childhood.  Boteach was rabbinical and understanding: “”I don’t think you are a prejudiced man. I think you are a phenomenally insecure man.”

The Statement: “I think to some extent Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert are the same way. I think Jon Stewart’s a bigot,” he said. “I think he looks at the world through, his mom, who was a school teacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that. Great, I’m so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine.” 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.

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