CNN's Rick Sanchez, who was quick to blame Fox News for the 2009 murders of three police officers in Pennsylvania , treaded much more carefully on Wednesday's Rick's List as he covered the eco-terrorist who brought bombs, guns, and took hostages at Discovery Channel's headquarters. Sanchez stated that Lee may have been "well-meaning," but "most watching this would argue he may have taken [his cause] way too far on this day." [audio clip available here ] Most?
The breaking news about James Lee's standoff at the educational channel's Silver Spring, Maryland office building dominated Sanchez's broadcast. Twenty-five minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour, during an interview of former hostage negotiator Tom Fuentes, the anchor summarized Lee's manifesto: "He apparently wants the Discovery Channel...[to] broadcast certain commitments to save the planet...He's apparently anti-war....He's concerned about global warming, talks about Malthusian sciences, continues to come back to saving the planet." He then asked Fuentes, "So...if you get my drift, Tom, he's very concerned. He's an activist, may be very well-meaning, but he's now put himself in a situation where he, the police officers and his hostages' lives are endangered. What do you do?"
Later that hour, Sanchez again described the eco-terrorist as a mere "activist" but also added that he was a "very dangerous man." He also asked correspondent Josh Levs, "How
can a man claim to be for saving the planet, apparently a peace
activist, so to speak, while at the same time be threatening to blow
himself and other people up and carrying a handgun?"
Nine minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour, the CNN anchor skirted giving a definitive statement on the criminality of Lee's actions: "For those of you just now joining us, we've got a pretty good bead on who this guy is. We understand what his concerns have been for some time. He's a bit of an activist, a guy who truly believes, seemingly, in his heart that he needs to do all he can to save the planet. Most watching this would argue he may have taken it way too far on this day by endangering the lives of people in this building, as he seems to be doing right now."
Eleven minutes later, Sanchez did go so far to give a negative label of the eco-terrorist's views:
SANCHEZ: You have a right to believe whatever it is you want to believe, no matter how strange. There's people who still say that they believe that there's all kinds of stuff going on out there that may not be true. That doesn't lead one to believe that any- on any given day, they're going to take a gun or explosives and walk into a building and threaten the lives of people- although, I guess you must admit that even back then, you must have been taken aback. I mean, those theories seem- I'll just say it- weird.
Just before the bottom of the hour, the anchor went even further about Lee's manifesto: "Police are trying to talk the guy out of the building by negotiating with him, by trying to reach some conclusion with him- that he's achieved his goal of letting the world know what his concerns are about saving the planet, which are his concerns- albeit extreme- but those are his concerns and he appears to want to make sure that those concerns are heard."
During the last ten minutes of his program, it seems that Sanchez couldn't make up his mind about Lee. At one point, he gave the following statement: "You hear of a lot of people who have causes. This particular person's cause is saving the planet. But it's how he goes about it, in a very unique way- even beyond what he's doing here today, by endangering the lives of people stuck in a building with explosives, waving a handgun with hostages- but what he actually says in his writings, in his manifesto that have certainly perked our curiosity and yours as well." After Levs gave more background on the eco-terrorist's views, he replied that it was a "paradoxical theory, while it may be, and certainly, on this night, a dangerous one as well."
Sanchez was much more definitive on April 8, 2009, after three Pittsburgh police officers were shot and killed by a crazed gunman: "That weekend tragedy involves a man who allegedly shot and killed three police officers in cold blood. Why? Because he was convinced, after no doubt watching Fox News and listening to right-wing radio, that quote, 'Our rights were being infringed upon.'" When several congressmen asked for extra security after threats were made against them around the time of the vote on ObamaCare in March 2010, the CNN anchor repeatedly insinuated that Republican leaders and conservative media were to blame : "Is there a possibility that that message isn't getting out to the American people because these crazy talk show hosts that are so right-wing are out there using the most heated language and the most heated rhetoric that does, in fact, incite people to hate?"
- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here .