Magazine article The Progressive

Cenk Uygur

Magazine article The Progressive

Cenk Uygur

Article excerpt

With his satellite talk radio, cable TV, and YouTube programs, Cenk Uygur has emerged as a cutting-edge commentator. He may be best known as the "Young Turk" host of an MSNBC show before he made a noteworthy exit. Now he hosts his show preceding Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer on Current TV, the network co-founded by Al Gore.

A Webby Award Honoree for Best Web Personality/ Host, Uygur is a vital Internet voice. He'S the CEO of the TYT Network, and its flagship show is similarly named The Young Turks, a two-hour daily program that claims to be "the largest online news show in the world," with hundreds of millions of views. The busy Uygur also blogs for outlets such as the Huffington Post and hosts The Point, a unique online partnership funded by YouTube and the first weekly program launched on its Town Square channel.

Uygur was born in 1970 in Istanbul and lived in Turkey until he was eight, when the family moved to East Brunswick, New Jersey. He attended the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School and then graduated from Columbia Law School.

Unlike many of his former MSNBC colleagues, Uygur is unafraid to blast President Obama and the Democrats when he feels they're straying from the progressive path.

Uygur has a jovial manner, which was on display when I interviewed him in mid-April in his office at "Rebel Headquarters," located in TYT's studio in Culver City, California. Friendly, lighthearted, and informal, Uygur is nevertheless passionately concerned about the issues of the day.

Q: You began as a Republican. What accounts for your transformation?

Cenk Uygur: The Republican Party. [Laughs.] My favorite quote is from Charles Barkley, who said: "I was a Republican until they went crazy." That about sums it up for me.

I was a liberal Republican in New Jersey, back when such a thing existed. I was socially liberal, economically conservative. Several things went wrong. Number one, I realized that the Republican Party is not at all fiscally conservative. Then there was the issue of foreign policy and there they went nuts: They invaded Iraq, when it made no sense whatsoever, then they started torturing people and engaging in warrantless wiretapping. All of this was insanity, and I had no interest in being stained by being near a party like that.

Q: How did you get interested in media?

Uygur: You know, that's a great question because it's such a strange thing to say, "I'm going to be a talk show host." I didn't even think about it until a friend suggested I take a Learning Annex course on how to start your own television show, which I thought was the craziest thing I ever heard. So I took it in New York--right after I got out of law school, right before I went to Washington to start working as a lawyer--and basically the lady just said, "If you go to your local public access station, by law they have to give you a show." I couldn't believe it, and I thought: "This is the greatest country that's ever existed." Sometimes liberals will try to shake me out of my unadulterated patriotism, and they can't do it. I love this country!

My first day at my law firm, I actually left early to go to orientation at the public access station, and within a couple of months I'd done my first show. The minute that I did my first show I knew it was over--I knew that's what I wanted to do the rest of my life.

Q: How long did you last as a lawyer?

Uygur: I was a lawyer in total nine months, and I hated every minute of it and got out of it as quickly as I could. The first seven months was corporate law: officers and directors insurance liability litigation. Meaning when CEOs screwed people we had to defend them, so you can see why I didn't like it.

Q: How did The Young Turks get started?

Uygur: I had been in radio and TV from '95 to 2002, when I was back in Los Angeles and a friend I had in my old days in radio wound up being the program director of XM Satellite Radio. …

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