Mess with Jon Stewart, risk massive embarrassment: That's what the "Daily Show" host proved Monday night, when he slammed former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez for the less-than-kosher remarks he made about Jewish people in the media last week.
Stewart opened by announcing that he only heard Sanchez's now infamous interview on the radio program "Stand Up! With Pete Dominick" after taping Thursday's edition of "The Daily Show" and lamented that he had to wait until Monday to respond. First, he did so with sarcasm.
"I think Jon Stewart's a bigot," Sanchez was heard saying in a taped replay of "Stand Up!"
"Oh my God!" Stewart squealed. "Rick Sanchez knows my name!"
Stewart especially took Sanchez to task for the personal barbs -- that Stewart "grew up in a suburban middle-class New Jersey home with everything that you could ever imagine."
Smirking at the camera, Stewart said Sanchez "really nailed what it was like growing up in central Jersey in the early '70s, the fortunate son of a single mother in the education field."
After considering that it might be mean to target someone who'd just lost his job -- Sanchez was let go from CNN on Friday -- Stewart decided to go ahead and poke fun at an "extremely pokable show" anyway. Clips from Sanchez's "Rick's List," the two-hour-long program that was a staple of CNN's afternoon lineup, were spliced with scenes from NBC's "The Office," making Sanchez out to be as clueless and condescending as Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott (Steve Carell).
"Carell is leaving 'The Office,' NBC is looking to replace him," Stewart declared, with no small amount of glee. "Sanchez is available!"
Stewart took his first swings at Sanchez Saturday night during the taping of the comedy charity event "Night of Too Many Stars." Sanchez might be listening. Gawker.com reported that his wife, Suzanne Sanchez, updated her Facebook status Monday to say that the former CNN anchor called Stewart to apologize, "they had a good talk," and Sanchez "feels horrible" and "deeply apologizes to anyone who was offended."
Rick Sanchez Joins Broadcast Hall of Shame
It's hard to believe Sanchez didn't see this coming. Broadcast news is littered with instances of on-air personalities losing their cool, their respect and sometimes their jobs after saying something less than smart.
Had he considered what became of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Helen Thomas and the like, maybe he wouldn't have said that Stewart is bigoted toward "everybody else that's not like him," that "everyone who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart" and that he "can't see someone not getting a job these days because they're Jewish."
But he did. And now he's out of work. Below, five recent broadcast faux pas from which Sanchez could've, would've, should've learned:
1. Using the n-word 11 times in the span of five minutes? Yep, that's the kind of thing that can end a career, as Dr. Laura Schlessinger learned in August. After the website Media Matters posted audio from an Aug. 10 conversation Schlessinger had with a black female caller in which she offered such enlightened observations as "Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****r, n****r, n****r." Schlessinger announced she would end her radio show so she could say the things she wanted to say.
"The reason is, I want to regain my First Amendment rights," she told CNN's Larry King. "I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I'm sort of done with that."
2. Helen Thomas has covered every presidential administration since Dwight Eisenhower's, but her length of service didn't do her any good in June. While at an event to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, she declared that the residents of Israel should "get the hell out of Palestine." She continued to say that the Palestinians are "occupied," and that the Jews should "Go home" -- to Germany, Poland, America and "everywhere else."
Once her remarks surfaced online, Thomas' speaking agency dropped her as a client. Soon after, the White House Correspondents' Association issued a statement calling her comments "indefensible." Following that, Thomas resigned from Hearst Newspapers, where she had served as an opinion columnist for 10 years.
3. Last year, New York Fox 5 anchor Ernie Anastos coined a catchphrase and entered the broadcast news hall of infamy when he dropped the F-bomb while chatting with weathercaster Nick Gregory. Their exchange went something like this:
"I guess it takes a tough man to make a tender forecast," Anastos said.
"I guess that's me," a bewildered Gregory replied.
Both men shared a chuckle, then the 66-year-old anchorman shocked his colleagues and the audience at home by declaring, "Keep f**king that chicken."
Stunned co-anchor Dari Alexander grimaced straight into the camera before going to commercial. The following night, Anastos turned to the camera and said: "I misspoke during last night's newscast. I apologize to anyone who might have been offended." It wasn't his first faux pas: Once, he mispronounced the station's own website as "myFoxNY.c**k."
4. Comedian Kathy Griffin got a little too edgy during CNN's 2009 New Year's Eve live show with Anderson Cooper. Talking about some of the year's most outlandish news stories, the discussion turned to the Balloon Boy saga. Cooper showed Griffin a picture of Falcon Heene, the little boy who'd caused a national sensation when his father launched him into the air in a Mylar balloon. Griffin's reaction: "Wait -- Falcon? F**kin'? Falcon? How do you say it?"
Cooper refused to play along. He shook his head and said, "You're terrible," before resuming his banter. Both CNN and Griffin issued apologies after the broadcast, Griffin's more tongue-in-cheek's than the network's. "Like every other serious reporter covering the now infamous balloon boy hoax, I struggled to pronounce his name 'Falcon' correctly and have gotten a kick out of how many ways I've heard it pronounced by other serious reporters," she said in a statement. "Just add me to that list and Happy New Year!"
5. Joe Scarborough might have amped up his coffee intake after slipping up on his MSNBC morning talk show. In November 2008, he uttered "f**k" in its entirety when he meant to only use the first letter of the word. After his co-host pointed out his flub, Scarborough stopped the show to apologize.
Perhaps Scarborough knew he was going to be in trouble with more than just the FCC. He had to face his wife when he got home.
ABC News' Luchina Fisher contributed to this story.