Rick Sanchez says Jews control the media. Is that true?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Oct. 5 2010 6:26 PM

Do Jews Really Control the Media?

Only the fun parts.

Rick Sanchez. Click image to expand.
Rick Sanchez

CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was fired last week for calling The Daily Show host Jon Stewart a bigot and implying that Jews control the media. ("Everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart," he said, trying to explain that Jews are not an oppressed minority.) Setting aside the propriety of Sanchez's claims, is he right? Do Jews control the media?

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.

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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.

At the Wall Street Journal, the only hint of Jewish influence at the top is the persistent Internet rumor that the mother of Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of Journal parent News Corp., is Jewish. Murdoch has joked about the gossip but hasn't addressed the whispers publicly. (The Explainer's phone calls to News Corp. headquarters went unreturned.) The Bancroft family, which controlled the Journal for nearly eight decades until they handed the reins to Murdoch in 2007, isn't Jewish, nor is current Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson.

Jewish-American businessman Eugene Meyer bought the Washington Post in 1933. Philip Graham, his non-Jewish son-in-law, took over in 1946, and the paper has been published by gentiles ever since. Current Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli is not Jewish, nor are any of his top 12 editors. The Chandler family, which owned the Los Angeles Times for decades, is not Jewish. Sam Zell, who bought the paper in 2007, is a Jew, but top editor Russ Stanton is not.

Hollywood is a slightly different story. The conventional wisdom that Tinseltown is Jewish-dominated has some basis in reality, as Jews seem to be disproportionately represented in the upper echelon of film directors and executives. According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, 1.2 percent of the nation's adults are Jewish. (That includes only self-identified Jews and may exclude a significant number of Americans with Jewish ethnicity who are not observant.) Yet, of the top 20 directors, producers, and other non-acting movie bigwigs listed in the Guardian's Film Power 100, nine are Jewish (45 percent). There are plenty of prominent Jewish execs slightly further down the list, too, including the brothers Coen and Weinstein.

The top executives at major media conglomerates are also Jewish in greater numbers than the general population. Robert Iger of Disney and Sumner Redstone and Leslie Moonves of CBS are all Jews, while Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric and Jeffrey Bewkes of Time Warner are not. Jeff Zucker, the departing head of NBC, is Jewish.

If you look only at celebrities, and exclude the men and women behind the camera, the picture is very different. None of the top 20 people on the Forbes Celebrity 100 is Jewish. That is unless you count the much-debated Sandra Bullock. Or you misconstrue Bruce Springsteen's heritage—a common mistake. Steven Spielberg is the top Jew at No. 22.

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