Rick Sanchez on Cable News: ‘It’s an ugly, nasty, vitriolic business’

By Gail Shister 

CNN exile Rick Sanchez is not a big fan of cable news.

“It’s an ugly, nasty, vitriolic business,” Sanchez, 53, says from his home in Atlanta. “Every day, it’s a knife fight in an alley, and you don’t walk away from a knife fight without a lot of blood on you.”

That’s why Sanchez, dropped by CNN last October, is about to dive into the less bloody (he hopes) talk-show game.

The Cuban-born newsman is in talks to host a syndicated show out of South Florida, to be shot in both English and Spanish, he confirms. Sanchez would have equity in the program, which will be taped with a studio audience at the Cardozo Hotel in South Beach. Target launch date: fall 2012.

Sanchez’ long-time friend from Miami, Emilio Estefan, husband and producer of singer Gloria Estefan, will also be involved in the project. Not surprisingly, it will feature live music. The couple owns the Cardozo, among several other properties.

As co-host, Sanchez wants “a Hispanic-American female with national name recognition, possibly an actress,” he says. “A Latina Kelly Ripa.” ‘Desperate Housewives’’ Eva Longoria, perhaps? ‘Modern Family’s’ Sofia Vergara? No comment, he says.

Sanchez has other irons in the fire. He’s also talking to Spanish-language MegaTV, based in Miami, about creating programming. He met with the board three weeks ago. “They’ve got some pretty ambitious plans, and I’d love to be part of those plans,” he says.

Beginning in the fall, Sanchez will do radio football commentary for Miami’s Florida International

University. Sanchez has strong ties to FIU – his two sons attend the school and Panthers athletic director Pete Garcia is a childhood friend. Sanchez attends all the games, anyway.

Sanchez’ ties to Miami are equally strong. He was raised in a Miami suburb, and did two anchoring

stints at WSVN (formerly WCKT.) He hosted a short-lived talk show on WTVJ before joining CNN in 2004.

Sanchez is donating his radio services for one season because “I don’t need the money. I made good investments.” (Though Sanchez won’t comment, CNN insiders say he’s being paid for the remainder of his contract, which runs until early 2013.)

Back to the talk show, Sanchez says the attraction for him is “being real. Being able to have real conversations and share my soul without having to censor myself. The media and audience response wouldn’t be derived from ‘gotcha.’”

Sanchez’ trademark intensity and occasionally off-target ad-libs drew a plethora of ‘gotcha’s’ from bloggers, tweeters, TV critics, and, in particular, ‘The Daily Show’s’ Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. For Sanchez, the eviscerating criticism from all sides was the worst part of the job at CNN.

“You can’t win. I don’t care if you’re as masterful politically as Chris Matthews, as incredible in an argument as Bill O’Reilly, or as good-looking as Anderson Cooper. No matter what your skill set, someone’s going to be there every single day to blast your ass.”

CNN blasted Sanchez’ one day after he made what some perceived as anti-Semitic remarks during a satellite-radio interview. He acknowledges that he “mangled” the interview and, in retrospect, would have framed his responses differently.

When Sanchez was fired, he says what hurt him most is that “no one stood up for me. I was just as hated on the right as on the left.” If, by some quirk of fate, Sanchez returns to cable, “I’d have a publicist working with me every day and an agent watching my back, even if it costs half my salary.”

His insistence on working without a script on ‘Rick’s List’ did him in at CNN, Sanchez says.

“I was never a TelePrompter reader. It was hard to script me. I wanted to have conversations with viewers.” (A social-network fiend, he has nearly 140,000 followers on Twitter and 50,000 Facebook friends.)

If he had to do it over again, “I would read every single word of every script, right off the ‘prompter,” Sanchez says. “I’d show up half an hour before, do my makeup, then do the show. Folks who do that are the ones who are beloved.”

The hard workers, like him, “are guaranteed to get a lot more crap,” he says.