Fired Rick Sanchez Plays Identity Politics With George Stephanopoulos, Skips Minorities on ABC

Ex-CNN host Rick Sanchez appeared on Friday's Good Morning America to apologize yet again for calling Jon Stewart a bigot and to bemoan the lack of minorities in journalism. Sanchez complained, "If you look at the landscape right now in our media, in primetime, there's not a single Hispanic. There's not a single African-American." [MP3 here.]

First off, although not in primetime, GMA features an African American co-host (Robin Roberts) and an Asian news reader (Juju Chang).

Co-anchor George Stephanopoulos quickly started picking apart Sanchez's arguments. He mentioned 20/20's Elizabeth Vargas. "I'm talking about newscasts," the former CNN anchor spun.

After being told that 20/20 is a newscast, Sanchez moved the goal post: "That's fair. I'm referring to cable newscasts, straight newscasts, uh, not magazine shows. There's not a single Hispanic, a single Asian American or a single African-American."

Sanchez also brought up his famous trouble with the metric system and tried to trap Stephanopoulos. Complaining about Stewart, he still seemed confused:

RICK SANCHEZ: How many feet and how many inches are in ten meters?

STEPHANOPOULOS: How many feet and how many inches are in ten meters? What is it, 330 feet?

SANCHEZ: No, in ten meters.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah.

SANCHEZ: Ten meters is like, it's like 11 or something, right? Anyway. Exactly. I got confused. Well, one time I said on television that I said I didn't know how many feet and inches were in ten meters. And I was part of how the whole audience was laughing, saying "Look how stupid Rick Sanchez is." So, it's almost like if he does a piece on Glenn Beck calling the President a communist, than he has to do a piece on CNN, and I'm the one he chooses, and then he does that, and I was feeling like, you know, is that really fair? And why is it always me?

(The real answer is 33 feet.)

A transcript of the October 8 segment, which aired at 7:33am EDT, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And Rick Sanchez joins us now. I know this has not been the easiest week for you. But you're still smiling.

SANCHEZ: It's tough. I screwed up, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What happened on that radio show?

STEWART: I was tired. I'd been working 14-hour days for like two and a half months. I was doing three shows. I was exhausted. It was right after the air. My daughter had a softball game I desperately wanted to go to. And I was a little impatient. And I said some things that I shouldn't have said. And they were wrong. Not only were they wrong. They were offensive. And people who were offended by it-

STEPHANOPOULOS: People thought they were anti-Semitic.

SANCHEZ: -yeah, deserved to know that, first of all, that's not what i meant. And second of all, I apologize and it was wrong for me to be so careful and so inartful. But it happened. And I can't take it back. Now, I have to stand up and be responsible for it, just like I teach my kids.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Where does it come from? Because, some people look at this and said there's been a pattern here. Ed Koch brought up, put a post on Huffington Post where he brought up an exchange he had with you a couple years ago. You were talking about aid to Israel. You're a strong supporter of Israel. But I want to show the exchange here. You also asked Koch, "Do you worry sometimes that people in our government, and I'll name names, Feith, Perle, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Kristol, these are guys that were in there fighting Israel's fight yet inside the U.S. government. Is that a problem?" Koch responded, "Is it a problem for Irish-Americans to be supportive of the Republic of Ireland or Lebanese Americans? I'm a Jewish-American. Don't I have a right to remember the country of my ancestry?"

SANCHEZ: And he's absolutely right. And, you know, he's a good man and a fun interview. And I think that was a story we were doing at the time, which was in the news. And I wanted to ask it, without being afraid to ask the questions that sometimes people are afraid to ask. And I think we don't do enough of that in our business. And, you know, I put a book out that's called Conventional Idiocy, and that we shouldn't be milk toast. We should address real issues. And sometimes I get myself in trouble because I'm, I am, I confront these types of issues this way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, is your problem what you said or what you believe?

SANCHEZ: Certainly not what I believe. I was just being a reporter. I was asking the questions that any good reporter should ask And the only time, this incident with Jon Stewart is where, what I was feeling got in the way of what I should have done and said. And that's why I think I'm going through what I'm going through now. It was my mistake. I screwed up. I take full responsibility. It's not CNN. It's Rick Sanchez. Rick Sanchez screwed up. I went in there with a chip on my shoulder. I was a little bit angry. And, look, I will be honest with you. And I hope you don't mind me saying this, but I'm just going to go ahead and say it. If you look at the landscape right now in our media, in primetime, there's not a single Hispanic. There's not a single African-American.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Elizabeth Vargas?

SANCHEZ: In primetime, hosting a prime time show in the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: 20/20?

SANCHEZ: Which is 20/20. I'm talking about newscasts.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a newscast.

SANCHEZ: In cable news. That's true. That's fair. I'm referring to cable newscasts, straight newscasts, not, uh, magazine shows. There's not a single Hispanic, a single Asian American or a single African-American.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Connie Chung did have a show at CNN.

SANCHEZ: There's a lot of people who had shows in the past, I'm talking about right now though, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you do think you were a victim of prejudice?

SANCHEZ: Well, that's interesting the way you put that. No. I was wrong to say that. And I was wrong to scapegoat Jon Stewart. I was feeling a little put out. And I was feeling a little sensitive. And I was looking at the landscape. And I was seeing that. I externalized the problem and put it on Jon Stewart's shoulders. And I was wrong to do that. When I called Jon, Monday, and said, "Why do you always pick on me?" And he said, "You're the one I like." The guy's been so good.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you gave him some good material. Getting tasered.

SANCHEZ: But a lot of his stuff, though- he'll criticize- here's where there's an equalization issue that come in from time to time that bothered me. And I'm not trying to make excuses. But, I was, from time to time, let me give you an example. How many feet and how many inches are in ten meters?

STEPHANOPOULOS: How many feet and how many inches are in ten meters? What is it, 330 feet?

SANCHEZ: No, in ten meters.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah.

SANCHEZ: Ten meters is like, it's like 11 or something, right? Anyway. Exactly. I got confused. Well, one time I said on television that I said I didn't know how many feet and inches were in ten meters. And I was part of how the whole audience was laughing, saying "Look how stupid Rick Sanchez is." So, it's almost like if he does a piece on Glenn Beck calling the President a communist, than he has to do a piece on CNN, and I'm the one he chooses, and then he does that, and I was feeling like, you know, is that really fair? And why is it always me?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You do have a chip on your shoulder. You said it yourself. Where does it come from? You've been working in the business, what, almost 30 years?

SANCHEZ: It comes from growing up, when I was a little kid, I write about this in my book, Conventional Idiocy [holds up book] when I was a little kid, my parents were really poor. And my dad once said, my dad was washing dishes in the morning, delivering furniture at night. And my mom was sewing shoes, leather shoes. And I would work with my dad. And one day we went to deliver furniture. When we got inside the house in Boca Raton. This very wealthy lady. I said, "Ma'am, can I have a glass of water?" And she said "No, you go out and drink from the spigot. Go outside and drink from the water hose." I asked my dad, "Why did she treat me that way? And he said, you have to become somebody to gain respect." And that stayed with me all my life. And sometimes I've felt a little challenged.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk quickly about your future. Jeff Bewkes, the head of Time Warner spoke about it yesterday.

NEAL CAVUTO: Would you ever hire him back?

JEFF BEWKES: You know, I wish Rick well. He did a lot of good work at CNN. Anything is possible. He'll have a lot of interest in different channels. And, who knows? Maybe someday the right place for him would be one of ours.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He says not now. But maybe someday. Would you go back?

SANCHEZ: Absolutely. CNN is a wonderful, wonderful organization that treated me well and took care of my family. And I owe them loyalty because they've been good to me. CNN didn't screw up. Rick Sanchez screwed up. Rick Sanchez was offensive. Rick Sanchez said things that may have been offensive. Rick 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. And I'm the one who needs to be in trouble. If CNN ever takes me back, I'd be happy to go back.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're a standup guy to come out and talk about it. And I think I failed your quiz. What is it? A meter is three feet, so it's 33 feet?

SANCHEZ: Still haven't figured it out. Thanks, George. Don't worry about it.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org