American Culture

CNN's Sanchez manufactures issue over McCain 'bitch' flap

A supporter of Sen. John McCain, a Republican presidential candidate, asked him at a Monday campaign event:

How do we beat the bitch?

By “bitch,” the supporter mean Sen. Hillary Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate. (See the video.) Please supply your own opinion about whether calling Sen. Clinton a “bitch” in public is appropriate and whether Sen. McCain responded appropriately.

At issue here is how CNN’s Rick Sanchez exploited the video, manufactured a controversy and demonstrated his inability to correctly use the word “most.”

Mr. Sanchez led his Tuesday prime-time “Out in the Open” show with the video clip. (Read the transcript.) After showing the video, Mr. Sanchez asks:

No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton, is John McCain done as a result of this? Is this going to become a viral video? This is the kind of questions that we got to examine at this point. We’re going to be looking at a lot of these issues. [emphasis added]

“Done”? Because a supporter — not Sen. McCain — said Sen. Clinton’s a bitch means the McCain campaign is “done”? Mr. Sanchez over-dramatizes this (as usual). Surely Sen. McCain’s weakened fund-raising, cowtowing to the religious right, and his stance on the Iraq War will have much more to do with whether Sen. McCain is “done.”

“Kind of questions”? Such as what? Mr. Sanchez implies that Sen. McCain’s response belies some evil intent, intellectual shortcomings or, worse, sexist attitudes. But the transcript shows Mr. Sanchez provides no evidence.

“[W]e got to examine”? Why? So Mr. Sanchez’s program can amplify its meager ratings? And “a lot of issues”? What are they? Where’s the evidence of them — and whether they’re pertinent? And at what “this point” are we? He speaks before his mind can create coherent meaning.

Mr. Sanchez frames the McCain campaign through this imperfect lens prior to interviewing a regular CNN talkfester, Amy Holmes, a Republican who identifies herself as conservative and serves as a CNN political analyst. He walks her through questions designed to demonstrate how offended Ms. Holmes is as a woman; whether Sen. McCain made a mistake in his response, and whether Sen. McCain was embarrassed by the question.

Then Mr. Sanchez broadens the audience and stereotypes their reactions. Said Mr. Sanchez:

Well, I got to tell you, most people who have seen it are looking at it as a real mistake on his part in terms of the way he handled it. [emphasis added]

“Most” implies at least 51 percent. That means Mr. Sanchez had to identify all those who saw the video, undertake a census of them and determine what percentage both saw it and found it to a “real mistake.” He provides no evidence for “most” and he does not define the characteristics of the “real mistake” in the eyes of those who saw the video.

In other words, Mr. Sanchez shamelessly pandered. Reactions were swift:

McCain castigated CNN for its “biased reporting” and CNN’s own media critic, Howard Kurtz, agreed “his campaign has a point. That little incident was pretty badly hyped by Rick Sanchez.”

But overlooked was a reaction from actor Whoopi Goldberg. Ms. Holmes had compared the McCain incident with one associated with Ms. Goldberg. Said Ms. Holmes: “[D]on’t forget, back in 2004, John Kerry was in the audience at Radio City Music Hall when Whoopi Goldberg took to the stage and called the commander in chief, President Bush, the C-word.”

That incensed Ms. Goldberg, who has denied saying it. She called the program and, to Mr. Sanchez’s credit (or his anticipated and unexpected ratings boost) he put her on.

Said Ms. Goldberg:

Yes, but see, here’s the problem with that, Rick. When you are trying to stir people up, people will say anything. Now, I don’t mind if you don’t like my politics or you don’t like my hair or you don’t like my skirt. But make it about really what I’ve done. And don’t use me to illustrate a point that you’re trying to make. Now, you know, it didn’t happen that way. And I don’t want to be dragged into it. And so that’s why I’m calling.

Ms. Goldberg nailed it. Mr. Sanchez was willing to say anything — without compelling evidence — to “stir people up.”

This, folks, ain’t journalism. All that’s “Out in the Open” is Mr. Sanchez’s ineptitude.

2 replies »

  1. My concern, Denny, is that I’m not sure Sanchez’s behavior is all that out of line with much of what viewers are exposed to as “new analysis” these days. I’d feel better if his show’s email in box had blown up with irate viewers castigating him for his irresponsible journo-tainment.


  2. Great analysis – and honestly, the detail in which you examine the event is better than just about anybody at CNN has deserved for a long time. I believe it’s a mistake to talk about CNN in terms of “news” – they’re not, they haven’t been, and they’re not likely to be news in any meaningful sense of the word. They’re Newz Whiz®, a hyper-processed news-like substance whose only purpose is to create revenue. And Newz Whiz has the same effect on your brain that other Whiz products have on your heart….