Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 05/09/22

Agua Media Launches Podcast Network for the Latino+™ & New American Mainstream Communities | Business Wire

What do Hispanics actually think about issue like abortion, border issues, Donald Trump, the political parties and the term Latinx? According to Cuban-American journalist/entrepreneur Rick Sanchez, who has had news anchoring and contributing stints across the cable spectrum (including at MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and RT America), you can’t depend on the partisan media to tell you – and, if they were to honestly tell you, you’d learn that, like any ethnic group in America, they’re not a monolith. As Sanchez (who has some strong views of his own) sees it, both sides of America’s political divide engage in cynical attempts to create a perception of what Hispanic-Americans as a whole are thinking for their own advantage.  That brings us to why tomorrow (5/10) he’s launching the English-language podcast network Agua Media.

JWK: What do you hope to accomplish for Hispanic Americans with Agua Media?

Rick Sanchez: You know, we’re gonna create our own space. We’re gonna tell our stories. We’re sick and tired of people looking at us like we got here last night from the border when, in fact, we’ve been here since before the Pilgrims arrived. We’re sick and tired of every story being about us being criminals and about the border clash or whatever the hell they’re trying to report on. In fact, we’re as American as apple pie…We believe in this country. We love this country. We go to church. We raise our children. We’re family oriented. We’re generally conservative thinking. We love our jobs. We hire more people than just about anybody…That’s why we’re doing Agua Media. It’s about time somebody does something.

JWK: When did you start planning Agua Media?

RS: We started putting the company together about seven months ago.

JWK: You mention that Hispanics are generally conservative. It appears from recent polling, that the Hispanic community – while not a monolith – is trending against Democrats. Do you think that will continue?

RS: It wouldn’t surprise me at all because Democrats have just figured like “Well, they’re in our back pocket. We don’t have to do anything for them – same as the CNNs of the world and the MSNBCs of the world which are, basically, just the mouthpieces for the Democratic Party, just like Fox is the mouthpiece for the Republican Party, unfortunately. We shouldn’t have networks that are mouthpieces for parties but that’s where we are in America right now.

Latinos who are smart look at this and say “Yeah, from a messaging standpoint the Democrats are less apt to say that we’re all criminals and rapists.” You get that argument usually from the Republicans – or the very stringent Republicans – not all of them, obviously. Most Republicans are just family-oriented conservative people who happen to be fiscally minded but, unfortunately, the Republican Party has moved in a new direction now with crazy people who essentially are saying some horrible, horrible things about anybody who’s not a white Christian. As a Christian myself, I don’t cotton to that typeof philosophy, that type of thinking. I think it’s mean-spirited and I feel it myself when I hear some of the things that are said.

So, you know, Latinos are in a quandary right now. They don’t like the Republican Party because the Republican Party is just mean – I mean really mean – to Latinos. They say horrible things about Latinos, generally speaking. And the Democrats are weak and puny and don’t do anything and they tend to take us for granted as well. As I just mentioned a little while ago, if you look at CNN they’re suppose to be liberal (and) for Latinos or whatever. Yeah, right? How many Latinos do you see working at CNN? How many? Can you name one? How many Latinos do you see working at MSNBC? Can you name one? They don’t even exist! So, after a while we start looking at that and say “Yeah, you guys think that we’re just gonna vote Democrat because we’ve been around forever but, the fact of the matter is, (you just need to) start respecting us.

JWK: So, I take it the goal of Agua Media is to be, more or less, down the middle.

RS: Absolutely.

JWK: And it’s English-language, right?

RS: Yeah, it is, because, again, 95% of Latinos under the age of 41 speak English as their primary language. Who listens to podcasts? People under the age of 41.

JWK: Where will people be able to find Agua Media?

RS: Spotify, Apple, we’re ubiquitous. I’ll show you where you can find Agua Media. Right here. Go to you telephone and you put “Agua Media” and you put Rick Sanchez.” Anywhere where you get your podcasts.

JWK: So, it’s like a podcast network?

RS: It will be a podcast network with several shows. The first show out of the gate is mine. It’s gonna be called The Rick Sanchez L’Attitude! In my first episode, interestingly enough, I kind of tear into CNN. It’s an interesting story of how I was sitting around one day watching March Madness. I was watching some basketball games, John, and suddenly a commercial came on for CNN+ and I said “What the hell am I looking at?” So, then the podcast goes on to explain how this was perhaps one of the biggest failures (for) a new media startup in the history of our country. It’s like a digression in real time. Tucker Carlson invites me to his show. So, I go on with Tucker and I talk about this and the whole thing is captured in real time in this podcast. It’s a fun podcast. It’s funny, it’s strong and it’s important.

JWK: What was your experience like with Tucker Carlson?

RS: Oh, I’ve known Tucker for many years. Remember, I’ve been in this business for a long time. I was one of the highest-rated anchors at CNN with a show called Rick’s List for many years. I’ve worked at Fox News, I’ve worked at NBC and I’ve worked at CNN. I’ve been an anchor at that level. Since doing that, I went on to enter the business world where I started a $4.4 billion company called Cano Health that I helped co-found. Since then I decided to kinda put my money where my mouth is and start my own media company in the new media which is Agua Media.

JWK: Talking about CNN, what happened to them? It used to be that you thought of Fox as being the more opinionated news network and you’d go for CNN for actual hard news. In my humble opinion, Fox still has plenty of opinion but you actually find more real news there than you do at CNN which, as I see it, has gone nearly wall-to-wall Woke opinion.

RS: I think a lot of that has to do with when you watch, of course. There are some times when either network is doing news and other times when (it’s just) bloviating…I think Trump had a pretty severe effect on the CNNs, NBCs and ABCs of the world…By the way, it’s unfair to blame Trump because it was coming way before Trump but Trump maybe just kinda catalyzed it, you know? Remember, CNN put Trump in office. No presidential candidate in the history of the United States got more free air time than Trump got from CNN. The man would burp and they would go live. So, they literally put him there thinking he was a clown that could never become the president. Then when he became the president they spent four years ripping him. So, it was this bizarre dichotomy where Trump kind of made them crazy (and) they lost their mind – and they also lost their journalistic credibility.

I would argue that one of the things that’s been going on (since) before Trump (is) they stopped hiring journalists and they started hiring personalities. I mean Anderson Cooper, God bless him, is a former reality show star. Rachel Maddow is a liberal talk show host. Chris Cuomo happened to be a politician’s son and brother. I could go on and on. These are not journalists. These are not people who have ever covered a story. These are not people who have ever filed a report. These are not people like me who have spent their lives toiling in this journalistic world. They’re people who either knew somebody or somehow became famous in some other place so they gave them their own show. It is sad because that’s, unfortunately, what has happened to journalism.

The same thing happens at Fox, by the way. Sean Hannity has no business being a journalist because he’s not a journalist. I don’t know what the hell he did before. (I think) he sold vacuum cleaners and…I think he had a talk show on the radio in New York. So, this is happening too much in this business. We need to get back to leaving journalism to journalists.

JWK: So, how would you fix cable news if you were given the opportunity?

RS: Well, it’s gonna be tough because their audience is now between 65 and 85. So, you know, is that really where you want to start your business? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s a promising way for any business to survive.

So, that’s tough in an of itself but I think there is a way to get back to doing news in the United States in such a way so that you’re actually able to tell people what’s going on without dragging them into a fight between Democrats and Republicans. We’re all Americans. We all love this country.

We shouldn’t be pitting blacks against whites. There’s another example, just to be perfectly honest with you. You want me to be candid? Let me be candid. Turn on MSNBC tonight. You will see essentially a lot of African-Americans complaining about white people and if you turn on Fox you’re gonna see a lot of white people complaining about African-Americans and Latinos. What the hell is this?! When did we get like this?! This is crazy! Instead of just trying to solve the problems as Americans – whether you’re an African-American, an Irish-American or a Cuban-American – you know, we’re all in this game together. (Instead of) trying to find solutions, we’re all trying to fight each other because there are some people in the media who know that when they create that heat they get better ratings. That’s just wrong and it’s sad. I wish they wouldn’t do that.

JWK: What do you think are the big issues that Latino-Americans are most concerned about right now?

RS: Frankly, Latinos tend to see the issues the same way most Americans do. They think the economy is probably the most important issue. They’re concerned about jobs. They’re concerned about what’s going on right now in terms of our foreign policy which seems to be amiss. They’re obviously concerned about what’s going on in Ukraine. Pretty much, I would argue, Latinos and any other Americans see topics the same way. Family. They’re very concerned about their families. Latinos tend to be concerned about spiritual things like religion – which is important to them. Those are the issues that resonate with Latinos which, more often than not, are kind of the same things that resonate with other Americans.

JWK: One of the big issues being covered a lot by Fox night now – not so much the other networks – is America’s border policy. Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems to me that Hispanic-Americans are not really at odds with the majority of other Americans when it comes to wanted the border closed. They don’t really like the concept of an open border. I think that has kind of surprised the Democratic Party.

RS: Right. This is the United States of America. This is our country. I don’t care if you came from Mexico 400 years ago or last year and you live here now, you don’t want people willy-nilly to be just coming across the border whenever they want. That’s how Latinos feel about the border, just like most Americans feel about the border.

The problem is most of the people who are coming to the United States and staying are not even coming through the border. Most of them arrive on planes and overstay their visas. They’re coming from all over the world – including parts of Mexico. So, this made-up B.S. story that, generally, the right-wing media has created – because it makes for a great story – is very hateful (and) is just not true for the most part. Where are the stories about all the Norwegians and the Canadians and everybody else who are coming to the United States and overstaying their visas? By the way, they’re illegal too – if you want to use that world “illegal.” So, you know, there’s a lot of context that’s missing in this story.

JWK: A lot of people coming over the Southern Border aren’t actually from Latin America.

RS: Exactly…They’re coming from other countries. It’s not an easy solution but the solution is to figure out a way to create full employment in the United States by using the people who are willing to work. If somehow that is by allowing a certain amount of respectable good people from Mexico or anywhere else to come here and work, good! That’ll make us a better country! We don’t have enough people working in this country right now. I see signs everywhere. People are paying $16 an hour for some guy to work in a restaurant. We need more workers. We just need to be able to regulate them and be choosy about how we let them in.

Right now our process is an absolute disaster because, unfortunately, the government usually creates a lot of disasters rather than solving problems. But the problem isn’t the Mexicans. The problem isn’t the border itself. It’s all these other tangential things that go around it. It’s a long conversation which I would be willing to oblige you with but it’s not as simple as “Oh, look! The border! Mexicans! They’re bad! Don’t let them get in!” which tends to be the way we look at these arguments.

JWK: Abortion is a another big issue that’s certainly in the news. How do you see that playing out?

RS: Boy, this thing has really just blown up right  now. I don’t know. I think it may be a little too early to make a determination. I think if there was something unethical that happened within the Supreme Court which I guess some are alluding to…I would have a little problem with that. Not because of the decision itself (but) because I don’t want the liberal side of the Court or the conservative side of the Court being told what to do by any agency whether it’s a lefty like Rachel Maddow or a righty like Sean Hannity or any other organization. So…I do have some concerns about that. As far as how the law itself will play out – or whether or not they’re actually going to take down Roe v. Wade – I think it’s a little too early to tell.

JWK: Obviously the Hispanic community isn’t monolithic but how do you think the issue, generally speaking, is playing with them?

RS: If I were a betting man I would argue that it’s probably gonna play more along the lines of age rather than just nationality. So, let me answer the question this way. If you look at Latinos as a cohort, I would argue that most females would tend 70% against the Supreme Court doing this. I would also say if you took the age range 35 and under you would get almost 70% to 80% against it. If you go by how many Latinos attend church it would flip and almost be 70% (in the other direction). If you do the demographics…and, say among older Latinos how many of them would agree with the Supreme Court if they thumped Roe v. Wade, I would say it would be closer to a 50-50 split, maybe even 6–40. So, like you said, Latinos aren’t monolithic but, if you break down the demographics, you will be able to see the different pockets…That would be my guess. I don’t know. I’m just putting my thumb to the air, as they say.

JWK: That sounds to me to be pretty much the way it would break down in many communities

RS: Younger, against. Female, against. Non-churchgoing, against. There you go.

JWK: Turning to the media – as opposed to straight politics – I’m wondering what your thoughts are on political correctness. For example, what’s your opinion about the term Latinx? Is it a term that Hispanic or Latin people use? From what I gather, it seems that many people in the community feel that the word has been foisted upon them by the media and by people who aren’t actually part of the community – that the word was, more or less, made up by other people.

RS: You want me tell you what I think of Latinx?

JWK: Yeah, the term Latinx.

RS: I’d like to stick a dagger in it and bury it six feet underground and never hear that word again. I think it’s disgusting. I think it’s horrible. I think somebody who is non-Latino who came up with a word for Latinos. I’ve never once heard a self-respecting Latino refer to themselves as Latinx, not once, and I live with Latinos. I hang out with Latinos. I live in Miami. I never heard a Latino come up to me and say “As a member of the Latinx…” It doesn’t even exist. It’s a made-up word by academics and some liberal think tank somewhere that decided that they were going to change our language. How dare they go in and change my language!

I think the word Latina is a beautiful word. I don’t want the word Latina to be replaced with Latinx. What the hell does that even mean? And who gave you the right to come (after) my language? That would be like me going to Germany tomorrow and saying that we’re going to change Alemanni or something. That’s ridiculous. I’m insulted by it, I’m angered by it and I want to kill it.

JWK: I understand that you were the first national news anchor to actually go on Twitter and embrace it.

RS: So says The New York Times but what the hell do they know?

JWK: What do you think of what Twitter has become, its role in Cancel Culture and the debate over Elon Musk’s likely takeover?

RS: For starters, I started using Twitter one glorious day I think back in 2008. I was getting ready to do my newscast on CNN. Back then I was the new guy and I was doing weekends. The president of CNN said to me “You know, you may want to dabble in this Twitter thing.” So, I said “Okay, I will.”

So, I took out my laptop one day as I was getting ready to do a newscast and I said “Okay, guys, from now on I’m gonna do something a little different.” I said “I want you to go to this thing called” – I actually said “www” back then – “and, as you’re watching this newscast, tell me what you think and I’ll see what you think. I’ll read it during the commercial and, maybe, if I see something interesting I’ll share it with the rest of our audience.”

Well, John, it started with like 500 people, then 5000, then 50,000, then 100,000. This thing just blew up overnight and, before you knew it, we were doing something that was pretty cool. There was a hurricane, I remember, down in like Louisiana at one point and I was actually getting actual reports from the ground from people on Twitter that I was able to report on the air (and) that may have actually saved lives – about where to go and traffic.

So, I was pretty stoked, man. I thought “Wow! This is cool!” You know, (I thought) Twitter could democratize the news in many ways. And it kinda (did). It was working. It was cool. There are a couple of books being written about that now that I just did interviews with (the) authors (about).

Then, man, I don’t know what happened. First of all, the idiots at CNN decided that I shouldn’t be doing this because somehow I was sharing opinions of people that they didn’t get a chance to vet and check. That was dumb because the people were essentially saying things that were pretty neutral. Then I noticed that CNN took it and started turning it instead into a marketing/P.R. tool. Instead of me using it on the news, they used it, you know,  to talk about Anderson Cooper’s and Larry King‘s upcoming… It was just kind of bastardized.

I thought, at the beginning, if you were true to the idea, if you were true to the concept of what you were saying, if you were sharing real information with real people, (if) you weren’t using it fake and you didn’t hire a public relations team to do your tweeting for you, then it’s authentic and real. That has gone away. It’s really become a tool for bots and for P.R. firms and for marketing divisions.

JWK: Do you have any opinions about Twitter’s handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story and Trump being thrown off the service and that sort of thing?

RS: I just have a hard time figuring out how we are going to make this next step. I’m a journalist and I pride myself as a journalist. I’ve always been a journalist. I think there are certain rules. When I studied at the University of Minnesota and I got my degree from the Eric Sevareid School of Journalism, I took an oath to truth. I took an oath to never report anything where I didn’t have enough sources. You know, there are rules that we abide by. There are certain standards that you have to follow. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. I still screw up like crazy but at least we have rules. Well, where are the rules now? I mean (with) Twitter it’s just anybody can do anything and anybody can say anything. It’s just gotten to the point where it’s out of control and I’m not sure you can manage it because the people who run Twitter are not journalists. It’s never been a journalism organization.

The horse has left the barn in terms corporations owning news organizations. I mean CNN is interlocked with major corporations which is why they report certain things the way they do – because they can’t report the truth. Neither can Fox and neither can really even The New York Times or The Washington Post anymore because they have people who sit on their boards who also sit on the boards of (companies like) Raytheon. What does (a company like) Raytheon want? (A company like) Raytheon wants more wars because every time there’s more wars they get to make more bombs and when they get to make more bombs their stock price goes up. So, do you think they’re going to let CNN go on the air and criticize what we did in Syria or the stupidity we did in Iraq of Afghanistan? Of course not! And it’s not just that. I’m just using that as one example but the corporatization, the interlocking and the concentration of news has become really bad for masses of Americans in terms of what we get. When one company can influence or literally own 300 television stations at once in America you’re no longer getting the news of your community. You’re getting the news of some corporate board sitting somewhere in who the hell knows.

JWK: What do you think of the Department of Homeland Security setting up a so-called Disinformation Governance Board and the way claims of misinformation and disinformation have been used by Twitter and other public square-type social media companies to basically knock people off their sites?

RS: It troubles me. I mean where does that end? It’s a lot like Marxism. Marxism in its true form is one of the most beautiful thing’s in the world. Everybody’s equal. Kumbaya! We all sit around holding hands. Nobody’s gonna have an advantage over anybody else. Okay, that makes sense. However, when it plays out we find out that it becomes something else. (With) Joe Biden, because he’s a liberal Democrat – or a Democrat, I don’t know how liberal you would call him – you’re gonna have certain people left out (of social media) and certain things that are emphasized (but) when he leaves office and he’s replaced by a Republican that guys gonna come in an change the rules. Do we want our government officials making those rules about who can be heard and who cannot be heard? I would argue no. There’s already enough government in the dissemination of information.

Jen Psaki, for example. The idea that this government flack – which is really what she is – and good for her. She’s done a good job. I’m not criticizing her personally. I’m just saying what she does for a living is she’s a flack, right? She’s a P.R. spokesperson for the government and now MSNBC is gonna hire her as a journalist? Imagine if tomorrow – in Venezuela, Russia or  China – Maduro, Putin or Xi Jinping said “Okay, my spokesperson, I’m gonna make her the new anchorwoman for our country” That’s crazy! Journalists and the government are supposed to have an adversarial relationship. We’re not supposed to be in bed together. To think about Psaki suddenly becoming the next anchorwoman at (MSNBC), that’s just horribly, horribly dilutive of democracy.

JWK: Do you have any predictions about the Midterms?

RS: My prediction is that the Democrats are gonna get slaughtered. I mean duh, right? Unless there’s a big turnaround. Joe Biden seems to be a decent man but he’s not, you know, competent. We see him struggling with thoughts and ideas. I mean I’m not the smartest guy in the world. I make as many mistakes, malaprops and stuff as the next guy when I speak but it’s just sad to watch a guy who doesn’t seem to be as coherent as he should be as our president. I don’t think that helps him. I don’t think he curries favor with the American populace, left or right. I think none of his policies have come, really, to fruition. I think he’s done some good things. He got us the hell out of Afghanistan. Yay. Good for that. Finally, after 20 years of almost nothing.

JWK: What do you think of how the withdrawal was handled?

RS: It’s a withdrawal. How do you get out of a war? Hello? By the way, it’s funny how the media ignored that war for 19 years and 11 months. They just didn’t cover it. People were dying left and right. Our soldiers were getting killed. All kinds of horrible things were happening and they never even covered the story, All of a sudden, the last month, they go full blow and it’s the lead story everywhere. That’s the kind of bull crap and inconsistency that I’m talking about, John. That’s an important story that Americans should have been hearing about for 20 years, not for the last week.

JWK: Anybody you like in 2024?

RS: A lot of things have to happen between now and then. Let’s see what happens with The Fed. Let’s see what happens with inflation. Let’s see if Covid really is stamped out. Let’s see if the war in Ukraine really is settled. Let’s see if the Trump factions continue to materialize and in what form. Let’s see how the Republican Party kind of figures itself out – from the way, way right crazies to the fiscally responsible almost too preppy ones – and goes back to being somewhere in the middle which is kinda like where I think I am. There’s a lot that needs to happen between now and 2024 for me to be able to give you a good answer.

JWK: Is there anyone on the scene at all who kinda falls within the spectrum where you are comfortable?

RS: Not yet – because I don’t even know who the players are yet. I mean I’ve looked at the roster. I’ve seen what the media calls the roster but I’m old enough to know that most of the time the person who will be the president is someone that isn’t even on that list yet. Nobody had Donald Trump on their list. Nobody had Jimmy Carter on their list. Nobody had Bill Clinton on their list. I mean there are a lot of presidents who came out of nowhere and there’s probably somebody out there who might come out of nowhere this time, especially given the times that we’re living.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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