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10.01.10

Rick Sanchez's 8 Best and Worst Moments

On the heels of CNN’s unceremonious firing of the host—after he unleashed an anti-Semitic rant against Jon Stewart—The Daily Beast looks back at the highs and lows of his prime-time career.

“I can tell you this about anchoring the news on CNN: It’s hard work. The big three, CBS News, NBC News, and ABC News, broadcast maybe four hours of news a day. Cable goes on ad infinitum.” Wise words from one Rick Sanchez, in his book, Conventional Idiocy. All that air time offers ample opportunity to say something stupid. Sanchez’s strange rant implying that he believes an old anti-Semitic stereotype—that Jews run the media—got him fired ASAP from CNN. But Sanchez isn’t a total nutcase—the talking head has had his moments of clarity. The Daily Beast highlights some of his best and worst moments.

1. Sanchez Gets Himself Fired

Speaking with Sirius radio host and comedian Pete Dominick Thursday, Sanchez claimed Stewart—who has frequently targeted him for his stunts and off-the-cuff remarks—likes to attack him because Sanchez is Hispanic and was raised in relative privilege. Sanchez also called the Daily Show host a bigot. When Dominick countered that Stewart is Jewish, and thus probably sensitive to the treatment of minorities, Sanchez said, “Please, what are you kidding? 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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2. Sanchez’s Conventional Idiocy Flops

After losing his job, Sanchez won’t likely have a cushion of big book sales to fall back on. His Conventional Idiocy, which now seems like a rather prophetic title, was published last month to very modest sales. The book sold just 802 copies the first three weeks, in fact. His prime-time TV show, Rick’s List, wasn’t doing so well either: August was the worst month for CNN’s 8 p.m. timeslot in three years. Despite an almost desperate attempt to create an audience with his social-networking pandering, Sanchez got a mere 127,000 viewers aged 25 to 54 each night. Viewers totaled 452,000, a 41 percent drop from a year earlier.

3. Twitter-Gate Plagues Rick’s List

In what is hopefully an unfortunate coincidence, back in March, some of the comments tweeted by Sanchez’s viewers crawled across CNN’s screen, apparently unedited. "Israel is greedy," @ Beau1969 said. "It is simply posturing, Rick, don't you know Israel is boss and USA, simply an obedient servant? Jewish lobby runs America," @ kingyahoo added.

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4. Iceland’s “Too Cold” for a Volcano?

Sanchez’s freewheeling, casual style has led to the anchor sometimes talking first, and thinking second. During the eruption of Iceland’s massive volcano, Sanchez said he was shocked not at the size, but the location. "When you think of a volcano, you think of Hawaii and long words like that. You don't think of Iceland. You think it's too cold to have a volcano there." Later, Sanchez insisted the comment was a joke, “duhh!”

5. Sanchez Compares Obama to a Slave

Media personalities’ attempts to appear like down-home-aw-shucks regular folks often go awry. The same happened to Sanchez when he referred to Barack Obama as “the cotton-pickin’ president of the United States.” The network quickly cut to commercial, and Sanchez apologized immediately for the “faux pas” afterward, saying he was just venting his frustration with a traditional Southern expression—and that he didn’t mean to refer to that whole slavery thing.

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6. Sanchez Elicits Rare Apology From O’Reilly

But Sanchez has had his better moments, as when he fired back at Bill O’Reilly when the Fox News host falsely claimed that CNN had scarcely covered a shooting at a military recruiting center in Arkansas. “It doesn’t matter what really happened, it doesn’t matter what the record shows, it only matters what O’Reilly thinks happened,” he said. CNN, Sanchez insisted, checks its facts and admits mistakes. In a rare coup, O’Reilly offered an apology. “I was wrong,” O’Reilly said. “My apologies to CNN. I was talking about prime-time, but I did not say that. As they say in third grade, ‘my bad’.”

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7. Sanchez Stands Up for U.S. Troops

Another Sanchez highlight was when the anchor clashed with Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which infamously protests military funerals with signs saying that God is punishing America. Sanchez appealed to Phelps’ “sense of decency.” “’Sense of decency’ my foot!” Phelps yelled.

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8. Sanchez Rails Against “Hate Masked as Religion”

In Conventional Idiocy, Sanchez writes that a war is being waged in America by religious zealots. “Hate masked as religion is still hate,” Sanchez says, and defends the separation of church and state, a sometimes tricky position for someone with populist tendencies.