By Ben Goldberg
CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was fired last weekend after calling Jon Stewart a “bigot” and saying that CNN and most of the media are run by Jews.
In a radio interview with host Peter Dominick, Sanchez implied that Stewart looked down on him because of his ethnicity. When told that Stewart himself might actually relate since, as a Jew, he is also part of an oppressed minority, Sanchez fired this salvo:
Very powerless people… [snickers] He’s such a minority, I mean, you know [sarcastically]… 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. [sarcastically]
As it turns out, Sanchez’s remarks are factually off base. As Brian Palmer at Slate points out, almost none of the top media corporations are run by Jews.
But even if Jews don’t “run the media,” it’s no secret that American Jews have been disproportionately successful. There’s even a blog devoted to documenting Jewish success. According to its author, this success is partly due to “the huge premium Jews have placed on education, on rearing strong families, their push for innovation and entrepreneurship, tolerance for differing opinions, accountability for one’s performance in this life, and their sense of duty to help make the world better (tikkun olam).”
Take the Emanuel family. Rahm Emanuel recently stepped down as as White House Chief of Staff, one of the most powerful positions in the country, to run for mayor back in his hometown of Chicago. His brother Ari is a Hollywood super-agent, representing the likes of Larry David, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg and supposedly the inspiration for the character Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage. Rahm’s older brother, Ezekiel, is a renowned bio-ethicist at the National Institutes of Health. Three Jewish brothers, all rising to positions of great power and influence.
And the Emanuels are just one example of many. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has been in the news as well, the focal point of Aaron Sorkin’s new movie, The Social Network. Facebook, Google and Dell all were founded by Jews. Jews cured polio, founded newspapers, and received 22 percent of all Nobel prizes. Einstein, Marx, Freud — all Jews. Without question, Jews have risen to the top in a variety of different fields.
Yet, while Jewish success and accomplishments are clear, there are two salient points Sanchez never considered. For one, being successful doesn’t mean that Jews “run” everything. Sanchez, perhaps inadvertently, implied that Jews act as a monolithic whole, evoking classic anti-Semitic imagery a la the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Second, it seems ignorant to assume that success and oppression are mutually exclusive. Just because Jews have achieved so much does not mean they faced no hardships on that road to success. The Emanuel family’s father, for example, was an Israeli immigrant who came to the United States in search of opportunity.
If instead of implying that Jews run the media, Sanchez had simply pointed to their success, would it still have been anti-Semitic? Opinions vary. Danielle Berrin argues in her blog, The Hollywood Jew, that Jews play the anti-Semite card too quickly. Sanchez, she says, was certainly insulting and probably offensive. Anti-Semitic though? Not so much. As she says, “just because something is tasteless and stupid doesn’t mean it’s anti-Semitic.”