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No. 2: Rick Sanchez

A slip of the lip can sink your career, especially when you’re talking to a member of the media on the air. But of course a professional journalist knows better than to tumble into that trap, right? Maybe not. In 2010 no less than three high-profile journalists made unwise comments about religious groups: Rick Sanchez, Juan Williams, and Helen Thomas. Rick Sanchez had been the host of “Rick’s List” on CNN, the cable network that had ushered in the era of 24/7 news coverage, where no gaffe goes unreported. For Sanchez, his comic nemesis was Jon Stewart. The “Daily Show” host couldn’t resist poking fun at moments like Sanchez getting tased, Sanchez falling overboard a boat, Sanchez asking what “nine meters in English” is, and Sanchez reading aloud the instruction “ad-lib a tease” from his TelePrompTer. But when the CNN anchor called the “Daily Show” host a bigot during a September 30 radio interview and implied that Jews run the media, it was no laughing matter (well, except to David Letterman). Said Sanchez to Sirius XM radio host Pete Dominick, “I’m telling you that everybody that runs CNN are a lot like Stewart, and that a lot of people who run 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.” Under Dominick’s quizzing, Sanchez softened the bigot accusations to “prejudicial,” but by then it was too late. Within hours, the journalist had become the news, and a day later CNN threw Sanchez overboard. His wife, in a Facebook post, blamed exhaustion. Sanchez’s apology came soon after, and he called Stewart “the classiest guy in the world” for accepting it. (At least, that’s what he said before Stewart’s final “Daily Show” piece on Sanchez, a montage comparing him to the clueless boss played by Steve Carell on “The Office.”) Sanchez has since ducked out of the limelight, even cutting back on much-needed book promotion. He may want to study the professional recovery of another CNN employee who lost a gig for unwise remarks: In July, veteran Middle East reporter Octavia Nasr tweeted on her CNN account, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” (She later blogged that she had intended to salute his “contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on women’s rights,” not his “praise of terror attacks,” but she was soon ousted.) These days, Nasr owns her own consulting firm and talks about using social media to shake up news reporting. That could be safer than XM radio. –Cicely Wedgeworth

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