For the sake of total honesty and transparency, I must begin this by expressing my jealousy. Honest to God, if Jon Stewart was skewering me with the frequency he takes it to you on The Daily Show, I’d be filling pages in my gratitude journal with giddy exclamation points on a regular basis.
Surely you understand if you were some two-bit weather man whose only exposure was on a self-created YouTube channel, one of the most popular and respected shows around wouldn’t be cracking on you. It’s your success as an anchor on CNN that made the pot shots possible. (For goodness sake, if Sarah Palin can make an appearance on Saturday Night Live after Tina Fey’s portrayal of her, we can all buck up, can’t we?).
But let’s back up a bit. You were fired last week by CNN for comments you made in an interview on Stand Up! With Pete Dominick. After reading the much-excerpted quotes where you called Stewart a bigot and noted that your employer and the other networks were run by Jews and therefore could hardly be considered a minority, I quickly realized that if I have any shot at really helping you it would be best to listen to the exchange in its entirety.
And after I did, OMG. I was flabbergasted. Dominick could not have been friendlier, more persistent or more professional in holding your feet to the fire when you took the conversation in that direction. Then, well after your strong Stewart comments had been dropped, it was you who said, “Let me get back to the Jon Stewart thing.” Dominick seemed surprised, noting you’d said “enough.” But you went on to express what has obviously been buried for a long time – your feeling of being “minimized” and of being perceived as the “little Puerto Rican guy.”
If this was genuine and not just you going off the rails in a moment of lapsed judgment, my most constructive advice may be this – hire a therapist. I’m not being flip, Rick. This is a thoughtful suggestion. You seem like a nice enough person. You’re a family man. You’re a hard worker. But Dominick – whose work I wasn’t very familiar with prior to this, but whose terrific interview style has my admiration now – nailed it when he said, “You’ve got a chip on your shoulder.” And it’s a mighty big one. (Is it my imagination, or are comedians getting better than journalists at ferreting out truth?).
Look, I know something about how easy it is to let the chip build up until one day you feel like you’re going to go crazy. I was a sports writer for over a decade. It’s a male-dominated field. I was told I was a "minority" hire, a token. When an accolade came my way, there were always comments about how it was because I’m a woman. And I won’t pretend it didn’t back up on me, that I didn’t take it personally, that it didn’t make me at times more militant than I needed to be. All of that is crucial to who I am now as not just a professional, but a person. I proudly carry that as part of my identity.
But at some point I realized I needed help to move the needle closer to the middle, let those experiences make me stronger and more aware but not blind me to this truth: Every criticism of my work wasn’t about my gender. The truth is, your work on CNN sometimes came across as less than serious and was hard to watch. Not once did it ever occur to me that it was because you were of Cuban descent; I didn’t even know that about you.
When you asked Dominick why you were an easy target, you insisted it was your ethnicity, but he was trying to explain that it was your unconventional style. It didn’t work for everyone, Rick. No one’s style works for everyone. As Jon Stewart told Oprah Winfrey on her show recently, he’s revered by more people than he should be and despised by more people than he should be. He thinks of himself somewhere in the middle. That’s what you call perspective from a public figure.
You need some of that, especially if you plan to stay in television. I don’t know if life coaching is the best fit to help you with that. We set goals with people that will help propel them forward, but coaching is not about digging into the client’s past. That’s what distinguishes it from therapy. This is my way of saying you need to do some digging, Rick.
That said, I wish for you healthy perspective and a chance to use this life experience in a way that will bring you and your family abundance and strength. On Dominick’s show you described such a common sense approach to your Catholicism – turn there for answers. Go deep within and liberate yourself from victimhood. Do the work. Seek to understand.
And that gratitude journal I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend it.