Without intending to, Jon Stewart has become quite influential over CNN’s personnel decisions.
Before Rick Sanchez, people may forget there was Tucker Carlson, whom Stewart made mincemeat of after a disastrous guest spot on “Crossfire”—a show that was canceled after Stewart lambasted its journalistic ethics.
Stewart actually went a bit easy on Sanchez in a 10-minute opening segment on “The Daily Show” Monday night, Oct. 4, 2010, even suggesting Sanchez could be a replacement for the soon-to-be-open Steve Carell slot on “The Office” now that Sanchez is out of a job.
CNN rapid-fired Sanchez in the wake of his controversial comments on a Sirius XM radio show last week in which he called Stewart a “bigot” and said the people at CNN and other networks are like Stewart—Jewish.
In Monday’s segment, Stewart went through the whole timeline of how he heard Sanchez’ comments, feigning excitement that the former host of “Rick’s List” knew his name, and then launching into playing the first of several Sanchez sound bites.
Stewart said he was most angry that he had to wait from Thursday until Monday to actually respond—but skewered the media response to a couple of comments he made about the elephant in the room at a charity dinner in New York Saturday night.
The comedian marveled at headlines that said he “ripped” and “destroyed” Sanchez for his remarks about Jews running the TV networks. "Any headline from that benefit should have read, ‘Comedians raise $3 million for autism while demonstrating incredible restraint about Rick Sanchez’," he said.
On “Rick’s List,” Sanchez was known for theatrical stunts like falling off a cruise ship, getting Tasered and being trapped in a sinking car, while making what many considered goofy comments in a serious tone of voice and setting himself up for ridicule as a pompous blowhard.
Stewart had recently skewered Sanchez for excitedly reporting he’d gotten a tweet from House Republican leader John Boehner, calling it a case of “send a twit a tweet”—to much laughter from his studio audience.
But Stewart didn’t necessarily seem to have it in for Sanchez, and wasn’t fixated on him any more than any of the other news anchors he uses as daily fodder on “The Daily Show.” It wasn’t anything like the long-running tiff he played out with Jim Cramer a couple of years ago.
It was such an uneven battle that Stewart was actually charitable toward Sanchez, who had said on the "Stand Up! With Pete Dominick" radio show, “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.”
Stewart’s response on Monday: "If CNN got rid of Rick Sanchez ’cause they didn’t like his show, fine. We weren’t that crazy about it either. But if they fired him for making some intemperate statement and some banal Jew-baiting, I’m not even sure Sanchez believed what he was saying. ‘Cause I know, when Rick Sanchez has time to think things through, and doesn’t necessarily think he’s about to get fired anyway, he has a slightly different take on the topic. Perhaps the silver lining of this situation is it’s a chance for all of us to get in touch with not our dirtier, but our better, Sanchezes. Words to live by."
By these standards, Jon was really showing Rick a little love and compassion.
But Stewart’s tangling with CNN talent is now entering a new phase. “Jonny hungry,” he said about the new “Parker Spitzer” show, whipping out a knife and fork.
This "TDS" viewer can hardly wait.