Saturday, October 09, 2010

Rick Sanchez...still playing the part of the victim

Former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez kicked off his rehabilitation tour Friday by giving two interviews to ABC.

Sanchez appeared on Good Morning America and then again on Nightline.

Sanchez was fired by CNN on Oct. 1 after telling a radio interviewer the day before that Jon Stewart was a "bigot" and implying that the media is controlled by Jews.

But true to form, Sanchez wants everyone to know that he's the real victim.

Sanchez attributed his "inartful comments" on everything from "exhaustion" to "my daughter had a softball game I desperately wanted to go to" and the fact that he still carries a chip on his shoulder because he's experienced discrimination.

In the Nightline interview, (above), Sanchez told ABC's Ashleigh Banfield that he suffered discrimination growing up in South Florida's "barrios."

"You gotta go back to who I am, the way I grew up, the way I have been raised, " said Sanchez in hushed and reverent tones,

Sanchez told Banfield that as a child once he helped his father move furniture to the home of a wealthy woman in Boca Raton.

Sanchez said after their work was done he asked the woman, "Can I have a glass of water? And she said 'no, you cannot have a glass of water, you have to drink outside from the spigot.'"

From the spigot, "Where the dogs were drinking," said Sanchez. "In a strange way I was feeling like Jon Stewart wasn't respecting me, the way that lady didn't respect me." Sanchez continued, "And that's why I lashed out."

Sanchez still has trouble understanding that Stewart mocked him because he's a buffoon; not because he's Cuban.

To those of us in South Florida, Sanchez's complaints and excuses are familiar.

In December, 1990, as Sanchez was leaving Joe Robbie Stadium, he struck a drunk man who darted in front of his Volvo.

Sanchez later left the scene of the accident - to go home and get his license he says - and was ultimately charged with DUI after tests showed that his blood-alcohol level was .10.

The man Sanchez hit was 32-year-old carpenter Jeffrey Smuzinick. Police ruled that Smuzinick shared the blame for accident.

Immediately after the accident, according to a February 1991 Miami Herald story,
"several Metro-Dade officers smelled alcohol on Sanchez 's breath, but none of them thought he was acting drunk.

"Sanchez told officers he had not taken a drink that night, police said. [Later] Sanchez said he couldn't remember if he had been drinking, or what he had to drink."
According to a 1991 Miami New Times story, "eyewitnesses claim the anchorman ignored the injured man and loudly told police and bystanders that blood tests were pointless, and would hurt his public image."

Also according to New Times, Sanchez's attorney said that when Sanchez left the scene of the accident to go home and get his license, it was there he had "a couple of drinks to calm his nerves."

The Herald's February 1991 story quoted Sanchez as saying, "he prays for Smuzinick every Sunday. 'It's horrible. But I know in my heart that I didn't do anything wrong on that night.'"

Almost 11 months to the day of the accident, on Nov. 7, 1991, Sanchez - who had cut a deal with prosecutors - entered a plea of no contest to a charge of DUI. He was sentenced to "six months of probation, suspension of his driver license for six months, a 15-hour course for drunk drivers, 50 hours of community service, a $250 fine and $100 in court costs," according to the Herald.

Following his plea, Sanchez told reporters, "My Dad told me when we were growing up to always take responsibility for my actions. I'm going to take my Dad's advice, and I'm willing to take the consequences for this."

However the prosecutor, Blair Carr, had a slightly different version of the events.

According to the Herald,
"Carr had offered Sanchez a plea bargain in March [1991]. But the anchorman decided to take the deal only after [Judge Marc] Schumacher denied a defense motion to throw out the results of his blood-alcohol test.

"If it is a sincere plea of no contest that is motivated by a feeling of responsibility or a feeling of guilt, it usually comes shortly after the incident itself," Carr said.

"However, in this case, [Sanchez''s] no contest plea came after 11 months of media posturing and after all his pretrial motions were denied. He was worried that a guilty verdict after a trial meant a jail sentence."
But Sanchez told reporters the reason he took the deal was "that he wanted to avoid a DUI trial scheduled to begin Nov. 18 because he was afraid the Miami media would turn it into a "three-ring circus."

The ringmaster of Channel 7's "If it Bleeds it Leads News Hour" was worried about the media turning his story into a circus! Now, that's chutzpah!

In the days following Sanchez's firing last week, I heard him described by various commentators as egotistical, a blowhard, self-centered and narcissistic.

In Miami, it's impossible to find anyone in the TV business who likes Sanchez.

And it's hard to imagine any TV executive anywhere who is considering giving Sanchez another chance.

But in case there are any, let me offer these paragraphs from a story by the late Sean Rowe that appeared in Miami New Times in August, 1991:
He was one of these guys you see on Friday afternoon at the 7-Eleven, stocking up on beer for the weekend, maybe buying some Lotto tickets, then piling into a battered van with his buddies and cranking up Zeta-4 on the radio.

It would be nice to say his skills as a carpenter were renowned at the swank enclaves of Williams Island and Turnberry Isle where he worked. In truth, the people who live in the houses he built never paid much attention to Jeffrey Smuzinick.

And these days they don't even see him. A friend recalls that Smuzinick used to put down his hammer at midday and speed into town for legendary lunches -"a dozen oysters, ten chicken wings (hot), fish sandwich (plain), and an order of French fries." Now, in a South Dade nursing home, the 32-year-old Pembroke Pines man is learning to drink pureed spaghetti through a straw.

[A]fter two months in a coma, Smuzinick has regained consciousness and is making slow improvement. His right side remains largely paralyzed due to massive brain damage, but he can move his left arm and leg and sometimes hold his head upright. Using hand signals, he can answer yes or no to simple questions. Doctors last Friday removed a feeding tube from his trachea, and Smuzinick can now eat liquid foods.
Left partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, Smuzinick died in a Pennsylvania nursing home in October, 1995. He was 36.

Sanchez, through a Channel 7 spokesman released a statement that read: "My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jeffrey Smuzinick ."

The Miami Herald noted Smuzinick's passing with a 290 word story that ran on page 4B.

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