CNN Uses Rick Sanchez Program to Hammer O’Reilly Story

CNN has highlighted the Media Matters-driven spin on Bill O’Reilly’s race remarks on his radio program since the beginning of the week, and has specifically used "Out in the Open" program, hosted by Rick Sanchez, to carry the water on the subject Monday through Friday of last week.

"Out in the Open" first did a segment on the O’Reilly issue on Monday, at the bottom of the 8 pm Eastern hour. Sanchez played select audio clips from O’Reilly’s radio show, outside of the greater context of the entire hour that O’Reilly discussed race. He also read some of the quotes from a transcript of the radio broadcast. CNN contributor and O’Reilly critic Roland Martin appeared unopposed during the segment, which lasted about six minutes. During the segment, Martin, in his attack on O’Reilly, played-up the parts from O’Reilly’s remarks that both Media Matters and Sanchez chose to highlight.

A partial transcript of the conversation between Sanchez and Martin on Monday’s "Out in the Open:"

SANCHEZ: What's wrong with a white guy making social commentary about other people's race, which is what he seems to be doing, here.

MARTIN: The issue is not social commentary. The issue is: how stupid can you be? The point about the restaurant is offensive, because here's what he says: 'I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference.' Why couldn't you? It's a restaurant. People sit down. They eat. What's the big deal about that?

SANCHEZ: So, what are you saying? You're saying the fact that he was shocked by the fact that African-Americans were no different than white people...

MARTIN: Right. Right.

SANCHEZ: Shows what? What are you trying to say?

MARTIN: What it shows that he probably lives in a very isolated world. I mean, 'I couldn't get over the difference,' over the fact that somehow they're sitting there, eating. No one's cursing, saying bring me my tea. What does that say? Now, does that mean that his opinion of African-American restaurants has been formed by someone else? He didn't say there is no difference. Yeah, we get that. But, why couldn't you get over that fact? What's the big deal?

On Tuesday’s "Out in the Open," the term "subtle racism" entered in the discussion of O’Reilly’s remarks. A caption included with a file video played at the very beginning of the program read "Subtle Racism?" Sanchez replayed the most "damning" of the sound bytes, and hosted a debate between Project 21's Mychal Massie and former Clinton advisor Suzan Johnson Cook. Johnson Cook reenforced Roland Martin’s sentiments from the previous night, though with this segment, Massie offered an opposing view.

A partial transcript of the segment from Tuesday’s "Out in the Open:"

RICK SANCHEZ: Is it possible, is it possible, that African-Americans are simply being too sensitive on this issue and others like it?

SUZAN JOHNSON COOK: Not at all. I'm an African-American who teamed up with no one. My eyebrows did raise as well.

SANCHEZ: Why? Explain what it is about what he says that makes you as an African-American feel insulted.

JOHNSON COOK: It was ignorant. It was insulting. It was inappropriate. Number one, the question is, why did it take him all this time to even get to our culture? He's a man that influences millions of people....

SANCHEZ: ...Mychal Massie, your turn to talk about this. And, again, this is not a hammer over the head. He didn't use the N-word. He didn't use a term like Imus used. But he said something that is being taken by some African-Americans as a subtle racist insult. You respond.

MYCHAL MASSIE, PROJECT 21: ...Let me just say quickly that Bill O'Reilly was taken out of context. And far be it for me to defend Bill. He certainly doesn't need myself or Project 21 to defend him. But the full statement -- and I'm pulling these -- part of the sentence that was left out stated, 'And we went into Sylvia's, a very famous restaurant in Harlem. I had a great time. And all the people up there were tremendously respectful. They all watch "The Factor."'

SANCHEZ: ...I need to ask you. You say we should give him a pass because he says, had a great time and all the people up there are tremendously respectful before he says, I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. You say, by saying those niceties, then that excuses the rest of it?

MASSIE: No, that's not what I said at all.

SANCHEZ: Then what are you saying?

MASSIE: What I said was, we need to articulate his entire quote. The bottom line is, Rick, and to your guest, the black community does have an image problem. Like it or not, there is a very legitimate image problem in the black community. And we need look no further to see that than too see that with the NAACP, just a few years ago, prepared to give an Image Award, which has to go with good work and community involvement, et cetera..

JOHNSON COOK: The problem is that...

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Mychal, go ahead. Take 10 seconds and finish your statement, so she can get in.

MASSIE: R. Kelly was -- they attempted to present with an Image Award. At the same time, R. Kelly was being charged for allegedly pedophilia and so forth...

SANCHEZ: ...The point that Mychal's making is, look, if an African-American said something like this, you would give him a pass. You're going after Bill O'Reilly because he's a big target.

JOHNSON COOK: Bill O'Reilly doesn't get a pass. He's not African-American. The problem with our guest is that he takes the attention off of Bill O'Reilly, puts it on our community. I think they are two different issues. Bill O'Reilly said something that was out of context -- that was inappropriate. Deal with Bill O'Reilly. Don't deal with the NAACP on this.

It took until Wednesday’s "Out in the Open" for Sanchez to play more extensive sound bites from O’Reilly’s radio program which provided some of the context of the earlier sound bites. There were a total of three segments on the O’Reilly "affair" on Wednesday’s broadcast. In the first, Sanchez played the sound bites. In the second, he went to Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem, the restaurant in question in O’Reilly’s remarks, to interview the granddaughter of Sylvia on what she thought of the whole "controversy." In the third, he played clips of interviews he took of some of the patrons at Sylvia’s, and brought back on Mychal Massie for another debate, this time with Boyce Watkins of "Juan Williams is a ‘happy Negro’" fame. Watkins again repeated this labeling of Williams, and Sanchez made his first hint that O’Reilly should apologize for his remarks.

A partial transcript from Wednesday’s "Out in the Open:"

MASSIE: ...Where is the outcry when Joe Biden made his comments about Barack Obama as being intelligent and well-spoken and so forth?

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: I was part of that outcry, absolutely. When he congratulated Obama for being articulate and clean, that was a racist statement.

SANCHEZ: Let me just step in here for a minute.... Gentlemen, let me just step in here for a minute, because that was covered extensively here on CNN and on this program.

WATKINS: Yes, it was.

SANCHEZ: And Biden apologized for it, very different from the tack that Mr. O'Reilly is taking, just to throw that in as a program note here. Back to you, Boyce.

WATKINS: Yes. You're absolutely right. And the fact of the matter is that, when Bill O'Reilly gets Juan Williams, the ‘eternal happy Negro,’ on his show to congratulate him on his racism, that's like Hugh Hefner getting a stripper to come on the show and tell him that he's not a sexist.

On Thursday and Friday’s "Out in the Open," Sanchez called on O’Reilly to apologize. From Thursday’s broadcast:

SANCHEZ: Here's what surprises me about this. If people are offended by something that you have said, why not just say, ‘I apologize’ to those who were offended and just move on. Instead, after I called O'Reilly to get his response before we aired our report, he lambasted me. He screamed at me. He demeaned me for even considering doing a story about him. Why not just apologize, Bill, and then just move on? Admit it's a stupid thing to say and just be done with it? Because racist or not, intentional or not, one thing is indisputable. It was a stupid thing to say.

Following on Mychal Massie’s repeat appearances, Sanchez invited Boyce Watkins back on Thursday to comment on the "controversy," as well as author Tim Wise, the first white guest on "Out in the Open" on to discuss O’Reilly. In this case however, instead of a critic and a defender debating over O’Reilly, both were critics of O’Reilly. Wise accused O’Reilly of "backpedaling," and Watkins not only accused O’Reilly of racism but also his radio listeners.

TIM WISE: ...When he [O’Reilly] says ‘I was shocked,’ he didn't say my listeners might be shocked. He didn't say lots of white people might be surprised to learn that Sylvia's is not a place where people cuss. He said, ‘I was stunned. I was shocked.’ Now, he's trying to backpedal. But I think the bigger point here, and it's important to point this out, is that white Americans, and I'm one of them, and I talk to white folks a lot, they're all around round me -- white folks don't know black reality. White folks -- 80 percent or more of white Americans live in communities where there are almost no people of color around. So, we live in this bubble of unreality. We really need to get out more, I think, is what this suggests.

SANCHEZ: Is it important, Boyce, that Bill O'Reilly used a personal pronoun when he made that explanation? He used the word ‘I.’ He didn't say ‘others.’

WATKINS: Yeah, that's the fundamental question, typically. Yeah, he's usually asking me why are there so many single mothers, why are they getting arrested, you know, what's wrong with you people. And that's just racist rhetoric and the fact that he has so many followers, so many viewers, I never get more hate mail than when I'm on a Fox show. That really says a lot about him, it says a lot about his audience, and it says a lot about our country, unfortunately.

To close out his week-long coverage of O’Reilly, Sanchez brought on "crisis communications expert" Peter Mirijanian on Friday’s "Out in the Open" to second his call for the Fox host to apologize.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center