CNN's Rick Sanchez Goes After 'Cheap Shot' From NewsBusters

CNN's Rick Sanchez named me [MRC news analyst Matthew Balan] and NewsBusters to "the very top" of his daily 'List That U Don't Want 2 Be On' on his Rick's List show on Monday. Sanchez criticized me [Balan] for apparently not being able to tell he was "joking" during a segment on April 15 where he stated that "you think it's too cold to have a volcano" in Iceland [audio available here].

I have been monitoring the anchor since September 2007, before he landed his regular weekday gig on CNN. It actually isn't the first time he recognized my criticism of him. On November 12, 2008, Sanchez actually complimented NewsBusters on air: "...[T]he NewsBusters website, which constantly monitors this show - and we're glad that they do - questioned my conversation- criticized it with Neal Boortz. In particular, our suggestion that the GOP needs to remain adamantly anti-abortion, to try and keep the Southern vote." However, Monday was the first time that Sanchez mentioned me by name on the air.

My first indication that he took issue with my item from last week was when I received a call from his executive producer late Monday morning. Initially, they wanted to do a phone interview of me on the air. But due to his interview with General Raymond Odierno on the killing of two top al Qaeda leaders in Iraq, they decided to nix that idea. Instead, Rick actually called me directly and we ended up talking for over 10 minutes on the issue. Though I could tell that he was, at the very least, annoyed by my item, he remained polite throughout our conversation.

Later that afternoon, Sanchez led the 3 pm Eastern hour of his program with a promo on his Iceland remark, and I suspected he was going to be talking about me on his program. After playing a clip from the segment on Thursday, he described how "there's a reason I'm laughing and smiling. I'll tell you who didn't get it. Which list you think he's going on?"

Before getting to his "List U Don't Want to Be On" 16 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour, Sanchez referenced the issue again on air before going to a commercial break: "And I'm no vulcanologist, but I do know someone's blowing a lot of hot air my way. I'm going to explain this to you in just a little bit. This is about the 'List That U Don't Want 2 Be On,' and someone who wrote something about this show, about me and Chad [Myers] last week. Have you figured it out yet? My turn to shoot back."

Sanchez did indeed shoot back, and my NewsBusters profile picture ended up being broadcasted globally on CNN:

SANCHEZ: And now, it's time for the 'List That U Don't Want 2 Be On.'

I get written about a lot. It comes with the territory, right? Some on the left go after me for reports that they don't like, and some on the right attack me for much of the same thing. But sometimes the shot is just so cheap, it warrants, at least, a phone call. So that's what I did. I made a phone call today. I called the person who is at the very top of the 'List That U Don't Want to Be On.'

Matthew Balan is his name. He is a writer for NewsBusters. It's a website that points out bias in the media. He writes that I have 'demonstrated my lack of knowledge of basic science,' because the other day, on the air, I was kidding with Chad Myers about a volcano in Iceland.

Now, Balan couldn't tell I was kidding. I was, and if you look at the video, it couldn't be more obvious. Remember, I'm coming out of a commercial break where Chad and I had just been talking to each other for a couple of minutes. You can actually hear chad laughing in the background as I'm coming out. And I'm smiling through the entire segment- not my usual serious look, whatever that is....

After playing his "joke" twice, the CNN anchor continued his refutation:

SANCHEZ: Look, Balan has a right to call me ignorant or whatever he wants to write about. I'm a big boy and I'm a public figure, but wouldn't you think, with all of that laughter from me and Chad in the background that he might at least wonder if I was, maybe, kidding? Shouldn't he at least pick up the phone and call CNN?...Did Balan call anybody? No, he didn't anyone- didn't call CNN, didn't call me, didn't call Chad.

But- look, I didn't want to do to him what he did to me. So I did call him this afternoon, and I asked him, what was the segment before our joke about the cold weather? He said he didn't know. So here's a guy writing about this, but he didn't know that I was coming out of a break where Chad and I had been chatting about the volcano for over two minutes before we kidded about the cold weather. He says that he thought I was kidding at the beginning, but then somehow, he couldn't tell if I was or wasn't kidding after that because there was video over me when I said the last part of my line. So he said, at that point, he thought I was serious. That's what he said, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't give me, by the way. Maybe he really didn't get it. Maybe he thought I was being serious. Bottom line is, what he wrote, though, was unfair. His judgment, his opinion- no balance, no phone call to see if there was a conflicting story or a mitigating circumstance. Just Rick Sanchez doesn't know that hot magma can pour out of the earth's surface in the cold region in the form of lava. Isn't Rick Sanchez stupid?

Mr. Balan sounded on the phone to me like a nice enough fellow. But what he did to me is what we call in this business a 'hot job.' It's called a slam, and for that, he's at the very top of the 'List That U Don't Want 2 Be On.'

Yes, I couldn't remember, off the top of my head, what took place in the segment before Sanchez made his Iceland remark when I talked to him over the phone about it, as it took place four days earlier. But I wasn't the only one who thought he was being serious, if you look at the comment thread on my post, or if you look at the comments on the YouTube clip of his "joke." I even updated my NewsBusters item on Friday when he Tweeted about the issue: "yeah, it's friday reading up on...dummies who took my joke w chad about vocano [sic] literally. duhh!"

Screen cap of Matthew Balan's Twitter page, from 19 April 2010 
CNN's Rick's List program | NewsBusters.orgSanchez did give me the last word, in a sense, when he talked about my initial response to his "List U Don't Want 2 Be On" segment: "By the way, I just told you a story a little while ago about this fellow, Balan- Matthew Balan, and we follow Tweets from everyone who is relevant to the news that we tell, so here we go. We just received a Tweet from Matthew Balan, and he says, 'Well, thank you, ricksanchezcnn, for at least calling me a 'nice enough fellow.'" He was. My conversation with him today on the phone was quite nice, and he did come across as a nice guy. It happens."

-Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.