What Rick Sanchez Should Do Now

By now, you’ve probably heard the comments that led to the dismissal of CNN anchor Rick Sanchez late last week. If you missed his angry, Anti-Semitic, self-pitying diatribe mostly aimed at The Daily Show host Jon Stewart and other Jews, he said:

“Very powerless people…[scoffs]. [Stewart’s] such a minority…I’m telling you that everyone 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.”

Anti-Semitic and racist comments have been the downfall of numerous public figures, including Hollywood stars (Mel Gibson), television stars (Michael Richards), politicians (Trent Lott), journalists (Helen Thomas), sports commentators (Jimmy The Greek), and baseball executives (Al Campanis).

But many other high-profile public figures have survived such comments, including actors (Charlie Sheen), radio broadcasters (Rush Limbaugh and Don Imus), singers (John Mayer), and golfers (Fuzzy Zoeller).

Every case is different, but how can Mr. Sanchez best position himself to avoid the fate of the fallen and become a member of the survivors group instead?

Here are six tips Mr. Sanchez should consider to help mount a successful comeback:

  1. Apologize Privately: Mr. Sanchez should begin by immediately calling Jon Stewart and former CNN President Jonathan Klein to offer a personal apology. Those personal apologies shouldn’t have even a whiff of being a public relations stunt, and should remain private between the parties.
  2. Apologize Publicly: If given the opportunity, Mr. Sanchez should go on The Daily Show to take his requisite lumps. Although it’s dicey to offer a public apology on a late night comedy show (see Michael Richards’ disastrous apology on David Letterman’s program), Mr. Stewart is a different type of host. Mr. Stewart would likely ask tough questions but be fair – if he takes gratuitous swipes, Mr. Stewart risks looking like a bully piling on, shifting sympathy to Mr. Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez would be wise to humbly offer an unqualified apology.
  3. Drop the Self-Pity: Mr. Sanchez’s comments revealed a man who thinks much of the world looks down on him due to his Hispanic heritage. He should distance himself from those remarks immediately, as they seem hard to swallow coming from a famous, wealthy, successful, and good-looking anchor. Self-pity works badly during a recovery from scandal – just ask Sen. John Edwards, whose pathetic Nightline interview essentially put the final lid on his public career.
  4.  Go Away: One interview is enough – for now. The media will soon move on to another scandal, and silence will help the public forget his original comments.
  5. Don’t Announce He Will Seek Therapy: Mr. Sanchez should drop the hackneyed PR ploy of announcing he is going to therapy. That’s not to say he couldn’t benefit from understanding the source of his resentment – but that process should remain between him and his therapist.
  6. Have One-on-One Meetings: After waiting a short period of time, Mr. Sanchez should schedule one-on-one meetings with potential employers regarding future work. They should remain private until he is signed, at which point he might consider one final interview with a sympathetic host (e.g. Barbara Walters, Ellen DeGeneres) to discuss his lessons learned.

Time will tell whether Mr. Sanchez manages a successful comeback. My sense is that he can. His comments were offensive, but not so over-the-top that the public (and potential employers) can’t eventually forgive him.