CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was recently fired for ranting on the radio that the U.S. media is controlled by Jews, an old and pernicious stereotype. That he was fired is unsurprising and would seem to reaffirm the consensus view that, no, the media is not controlled by Jews, and even suggesting as much is morally wrong.
But Slate, that oh-so-contrarian Web publication, was not about to turn down an opportunity to run an outrageous headline on a dubious but high-traffic controversy. "Do Jews Really Control The Media?" asks an "explainer" article by Brian Palmer. Though the question may not seem to demand such a high level of serious analysis, Palmer felt compelled to ask of Sanchez, "Is he right? Do Jews control the media?" Slate's Palmer goes on to explore which industries are under the "control" of Jews, which is apparently measured by the ethnicity of its executives.
Maybe the movies, but not the news. If Sanchez was referring to people in the television news business, he's wrong. Not one of the major television news operations—Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, or NBC News—is currently headed by a Jewish executive. (That includes Ken Jautz, the man who fired Sanchez.) Or at least none of these executives has talked about being Jewish in a public forum. The Internet is littered with rumors about various media moguls being Jewish, but few of those claims are backed by any evidence.
There are more Jews at the head of the country's major newspapers, but it's still a stretch to say these publications are controlled by them. Even in New York City, where around 12 percent of the population is Jewish, there isn't any indication of Jewish dominance. The Ochs Sulzberger family, which has controlled the New York Times for more than a century, is of Jewish origin. But current Executive Editor Bill Keller is not.
But there's an odd assumption in Palmer's analysis. as The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg points out, just because an organization or industry is populated with members of a particular ethnicity does not mean that ethnicity has unified and concerted control of that entire enterprise.
Even if all of the television news networks were indeed run by Jews, would this mean that they were run by "The Jews", by a monochromatic Jewish collective? Does the Jewishness of any given television executive represent the most essential truth of his or her being, the element that consciously or subconsciously shapes an entire worldview, and thus, American journalism?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.