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Cenk Uygur

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Cenk Uygur
Cenk Uygur by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Uygur in June 2016
Born Cenk Kadir Uygur
(1970-03-21) March 21, 1970 (age 46)
Istanbul, Turkey
Residence West Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States
Citizenship Turkey
United States
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania (B.S.)
Columbia University (J.D.)
Occupation Activist, columnist, entrepreneur, and political pundit
Known for The Young Turks
Television MSNBC (2010–2011)
Current TV (2011–2013)
Political party Republican (before 1992)[1] Independent (1992–present)
Movement Progressive
Spouse(s) Wendy Lang
Children 2
Awards The Humanist Media Award
Emperor Has No Clothes Award

Cenk Kadir Uygur (/ˈɛŋk ˈjɡər/, Turkish pronunciation: [ˈdʒɛɲc ˈujɡur]; born March 21, 1970) is an American activist, businessman, columnist, and political commentator. Uygur is the main host and co-founder of the The Young Turks (TYT), an American liberal/progressive political and social commentary program. Before beginning his career as a political commentator, he worked as an attorney in Washington, D.C. and New York City. As a young man, Uygur espoused socially conservative views, criticizing abortion, affirmative action, and feminism. He is now a progressive.[2][3]

In addition to hosting TYT, Uygur appeared on MSNBC as a political commentator. From January to June 2011, he hosted a weeknight commentary show on the network; Uygur was replaced by Al Sharpton.[4] After leaving MSNBC, he secured another weeknight commentary show on Current TV, which aired from December 5, 2011 to August 15, 2013.[5] From 2012 to 2013, Uygur was the chief news officer at Current TV, succeeding Keith Olbermann.[6][7]

Early life, education, and career

Uygur was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and emigrated with his family when he was eight years old.[8] He spent his adolescence in East Brunswick, New Jersey, and graduated from East Brunswick High School. Raised as a Muslim, Uygur became an agnostic later in life.[9] He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in management[10] and was on the Student Activities Council representing the Turkish Students Association.[11] He then received a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School[12] and worked as an associate attorney at the law firms of Drinker Biddle & Reath in Washington, D.C. and Hayes & Liebman in New York City.[13]

Uygur first appeared as a talk show host on a weekend radio show on WWRC in Washington, D.C. and on WRKO in Boston. He later wrote for, produced, and appeared on the WAMI-TV news show The Times in Miami, then started The Young Turks on Sirius Satellite Radio.[14]

Political views

In his college and law school years, Uygur espoused socially conservative views. He wrote a column in The Daily Pennsylvanian criticizing Penn's practice of affirmative action.[10] He supported the pro-life position on the abortion issue, criticized feminism, and argued that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was treated unjustly during his Senate confirmation hearings.[15] He also criticized organized religion as based on mythology and as a divisive force between people.[16]

In 1991 Uygur wrote an article on the The Daily Pennsylvanian in which he expressed the opinion that the genocide of Armenians during the late stages of the Ottoman Empire did not in fact constitute genocide,[17] a view he repeated in a letter to the editor of Salon in 1999.[18] In a blog post in April 2016, he announced that his views on the matter had changed significantly since 1991 and formally rescinded the statements. He went on to mention that he does not know enough today to comment on the genocide.[19]

Uygur slowly transitioned away from the Republican party and he said that the decision to invade Iraq was a "seminal moment" in that transition.[20] He is now a progressive.[2][3] On social issues, Uygur is pro-choice on abortion[21] and supports LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage.[22] He opposes imprisoning non-violent drug offenders for marijuana possession.[23] He previously supported capital punishment, but now opposes it largely due to multiple exonerations of death row inmates since its reinstatement.[24][not in citation given] Uygur has expressed support for a return to Clinton-era income tax brackets and has criticized the 2010 Obama–GOP compromise which provided for a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts. Uygur has stated that he favored welfare reform as enacted under Bill Clinton. He has been critical of excessive regulation, but has argued that in recent decades, regulation of the financial sector has been inadequate. In particular, he faults the deregulatory policies of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. He views the repeal (which Clinton signed into law) of the Glass–Steagall Act, as a major contributor to the late-2000s recession. However, on many issues Uygur maintains that many of his economic positions have remained similar (he still describes himself as fiscal conservative in some cases),[25] that instead the right wing has shifted by becoming more extreme even since the end of Bush's presidency, describing Texas governor Rick Perry as "George Bush on steroids".[26]

On national security and civil liberties issues, Uygur has strongly opposed the practices begun under the Bush administration, of indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, and believes that waterboarding is an illegal torture technique. Uygur has been a strong critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the right-wing Israeli government and has stated that he is an advocate for a two-state solution in the West Bank and has repeatedly criticized the Israeli government for its failure to materialize.[27] He has also repeatedly criticized former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.[28]

On Democratic politicians and officeholders

The 2000 election was the first time Uygur voted Democratic, supporting Al Gore.[29] Uygur has supported Democratic congressional and presidential candidates ever since, though he frequently criticized the Democratic congressional leadership for insufficiently opposing the Bush administration on civil liberties and foreign policy issues. Uygur has criticized Blue Dog Democrats and other centrist and conservative Democrats, some of whom he has labeled as "corporatists". He has described former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, as "probably the only guy in the whole entire Senate we can trust".[30] When Feingold was defeated for reelection in 2010 by Republican Ron Johnson, Uygur said Feingold had been "the best Senator we had, and we no longer have him".[31]

In part because of concerns over Bush's foreign policy and policies on civil liberties, Uygur said he would support an impeachment of Bush. Early in the 2008 Obama campaign, Uygur questioned Obama's suitability for the presidency, saying Obama lacked political experience at the national level and had limited achievements in the United States Senate. However, he strongly supported Obama later on.

Since the fall of 2009, Uygur has taken an increasingly critical attitude towards the Obama administration, saying after two years in office, Obama is "not a progressive [...] He is a consummate politician."[32] Uygur has criticized the 2010 health insurance reform law as overly watered-down, owing to excessive concessions to business and conservatives in Congress, noting the deal made between Obama and the drug companies.[clarification needed] Uygur has similarly criticized the 2010 financial reform law.[why?]

Uygur feels the Obama administration has too readily conceded to conservative ideological arguments to the point of demonstrating an unwillingness to defend liberal positions. However, Uygur voted for Obama in the 2012 presidential election,[33] despite his disagreements with the president.[34]

Uygur heavily criticized Obama again in 2013 after the revelation of the domestic NSA spying program by Edward Snowden. Uygur called Obama Big Brother and a liar during both his then Current TV show and the online main show shortly after.[35] Uygur called out Obama on civil liberties saying that he is trying to "one up George W. Bush" and gave examples of how the NSA program could negatively affect the American Public.[36] Uygur has continued to be heavily critical on Obama and the Obama Administration on NSA related topics ever since.

When asked, Uygur mentioned he would be willing to leave his post at The Young Turks if he were nominated to become White House Chief of Staff under a progressive leaning presidential administration.[37]

The Young Turks

Uygur hosting The Young Turks in 2015
Main article: The Young Turks

Uygur created the talk show The Young Turks with the goal of starting a liberal political and entertainment show.[6][38] It launched on February 14, 2002. It later became a success online, and aired on the Sirius Satellite Radio network.[39] The Young Turks claims to be the first Internet video news show and states that it is now the largest online news show in the world.[when?] Collectively it has amassed over one billion views on YouTube, and over three million subscribers.[40] Video of the show is streamed daily on its website and is available as a podcast.[41][42]

On September 20, 2011, Current TV announced that The Young Turks would launch a weeknight TV edition of the show at 7 p.m. EST (M-F) on the network beginning sometime in the fourth quarter of 2011. According to the show's website, the show was introduced as The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur to differentiate itself from the popular web series.[43] The show on Current TV ended on August 15, 2013 with the end of all live programming on Current.

On July 21, 2016, radio host Alex Jones and Roger Stone interrupted a live broadcast of The Young Turks at the 2016 Republican National Convention, resulting in a heated verbal altercation between them.[44]


On October 21, 2010 MSNBC announced that Uygur had been officially hired as a contributor and substitute anchor for the network. On January 21, 2011, it was announced that Uygur would be hosting the 6 p.m. Eastern slot on MSNBC as the anchor of a new prime time edition of MSNBC Live, after the network parted ways with Keith Olbermann, resulting in a rearrangement of the timeslots of MSNBC's other prime time shows. Uygur filled the time slot vacated by Ed Schultz,[45][46] from late January through June 2011, earning first among people 18–34 in the second quarter. His contract was ended when he did not accept a lower profile weekend slot.[4] An MSNBC spokesperson expressed regret at Uygur's leaving.[47]

Uygur gave his side of the story on Democracy Now!, saying that MSNBC President Phil Griffin had called him into his office in April and told him that he had been talking to people in Washington and that they did not like Uygur's tone.[48] MSNBC denied the claim, saying that "We did have numerous conversations with Cenk about his style, not substance."[49]


Main article: Wolf-PAC

In late 2011, after seeing the momentum of Occupy Wall Street, Uygur decided to launch a long term project of his, a political action committee named Wolf-PAC. Wolf-PAC aims to lobby state legislators to pass resolutions calling for an Convention of the States under Article V of the US Constitution. Its slogan is "A super-PAC to end all super-PACs". The aim of the convention would be to pass an amendment to the United States Constitution that would end corporate personhood and publicly finance all elections in the United States.[50]

Personal life

Uygur was born and raised in a Muslim family, but is now a self-described "fervent agnostic", but has also self-described as an atheist.[51][52][53][54] In 2010, along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Uygur accepted the "Emperor Has No Clothes Award" from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and later the Humanist Media Award from the American Humanist Association.[55][56] He is married to Wendy Lang, a marriage and family therapist. They are the parents of a son, born in July 2010,[57] and a daughter, born in October 2012.[58] Cenk has stated that he grew up a fan of the Fenerbahçe S.K. soccer team.[59]


  1. ^ Cenk Uygur Goes #OffTheGrid – Jesse Ventura Off The Grid – Ora TV. YouTube. 10 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Rampell, Ed. "Cenk Uygur". The Progressive. 76 (8). Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Cenk Uygur bringing Young Turks to TV". UPI. Sep 20, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Brian Stelter (July 20, 2011). "Sharpton Appears to Win Anchor Spot on MSNBC". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Stelter, Brian (September 20, 2011). "Current TV Hires Cenk Uygur". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b Madlena, Chavala (April 26, 2010). "Cenk Uygur on the success of The Young Turks". Guardian. London. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  7. ^ Hammer, Andrea K. (May 25, 2010). "Hey, How'd You Draw 250 Million Viewers to Your Web Show, The Young Turks?". Retrieved May 26, 2010. On January 21, 2010, MSNBC announced he would be substitute hosting a one-hour news show for the station at 6 P.M. Eastern on weeknights 
  8. ^ "Coming to America!". The Young Turks. YouTube. June 14, 2007. Retrieved December 8, 2009. 
  9. ^ "That's why I left Islam". The Young Turks. YouTube. 
  10. ^ a b Cenk Uygur (October 18, 1991). "Where are the White Christians?". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved June 15, 2014. 
  11. ^ Drew W Zoller (April 25, 1991). "Turk, Armenian dispute raised at SAC". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Cenk Uygur". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  13. ^ Siddiqi, Ayesha R. (April 9, 2010). "Interview with Huffington Post's Cenk Uygur". Diskord. Archived from the original on 14 August 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  14. ^ Uygur, Cenk (c. 2007). "User Profile for Cenk Uygur (cuygur)". Confabb. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  15. ^ Cenk Uygur (November 8, 1991). "For Feminists". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved June 15, 2014. 
  16. ^ Cenk Uygur (December 5, 1991). "A Federation of Humanity". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved June 15, 2014. 
  17. ^ Uygur, Cenk (1991-11-20). "Historical Fact or Falsehood?". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Archived from the original on 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  18. ^ "Letters to the Editor". 
  19. ^ "Rescinding Daily Pennsylvanian Article". TYT Network. Archived from the original on September 13, 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2016. 
  20. ^ Bryce Rudow (January 30, 2014). "Cenk Uygur Finally Opens Up About Keith Olbermann: "He's Clearly Got Clinical Issues"". The Daily Banter. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  21. ^ Uygur, Cenk; Kasparian, Ana. "Woman Dies After Denied Abortion – Cenk on 'Morality'". YouTube. The Young Turks. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  22. ^ Uygur, Cenk. "MSNBC – Cenk Uygur On Gay Marriage". YouTube. Fighting for Equality! Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  23. ^ Uygur, Cenk; Kasparian, Ana. "Megan McCain Smokes Pot – Does Cenk?". YouTube. The Young Turks. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  24. ^ "Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row - Death Penalty Information Center". 
  25. ^ Porn Actress Belle Knox Is A Big Rand Paul Fan. YouTube. 30 January 2015. 
  26. ^ "Rick Perry: No Stimulus If I'm President". The Young Turks. YouTube. August 30, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2013. Here's what Rick Perry is going to do if he becomes President: whatever his donors tell him to do 
  27. ^ [ Breakdown of Netanyahu's Appearance in US Congress ] on YouTube
  28. ^ "Conservatives Win In Canada Elections". The Young Turks. YouTube. May 3, 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2015. 
  29. ^ "PoliticsTV @ Yearly Kos '07: Cenk Uygur". PoliticsTV. YouTube. August 3, 2007. Retrieved February 28, 2011. So I'm a Northeast moderate Republican, and everything's going along fine, then Bill Clinton becomes President ... all of a sudden [Clinton] does welfare reform, I thought, "that was pretty good", and all of a suddenly he balances the budget... and then [the Republicans] do impeachment, and that was my first sign that I was in the room with the wrong guys... I thought, "wow, this impeachment doesn't make any sense. It's about oral sex!"... Actually, the first Democrat I ever voted for was Al Gore in the presidential elections... I was so conservative judicially that I went to Federalist Society meetings. 
  30. ^ "Senator Russ Feingold on the new FISA Bill". The Young Turks. YouTube. June 25, 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2011. Senator Russ Feingold, to be quite honest the one guy we actually trust in the Senate. 
  31. ^ "TYT Weekly Highlights". The Young Turks. YouTube. November 5, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2011. You see the guy who got 'X'ed out there, who lost to Gillibrand in New York, Joe DioGuardi -- I worked for Joe DioGuardi...[Feingold was] in my opinion the best Senator we had – and we no longer have him, so enjoy Ron Johnson – my sense is, you won't. 
  32. ^ Uygur, Cenk (February 25, 2011). "President Obama Vs Himself On Unions". The Young Turks. YouTube. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  33. ^ Uygur, Cenk (6 November 2012). "Why Obama Will Disappoint Progressives and I Voted for Him Anyway". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  34. ^ "Four "bold progressive" picks for Congress in 2012". The Young Turks. The Young Turks. 5 January 2012. Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2015. 
  35. ^ Video on YouTube Published on Jun 11, 2013
  36. ^ Video on YouTube Published on Jun 10, 2013
  37. ^ "Cenk 2016? TYT Canada? Chief of Staff? BFD Joe Biden (Twitter Storm)". YouTube. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  38. ^ Stein, Sam (August 19, 2011). "'Professional Left' Saga Says More About Media Than Obama". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 21, 2011. 
  39. ^ Tina Dupuy, "Cenk Uygur Sets Out to Take Down Traditional Television" Fast Company (December 1, 2009). Retrieved March 9, 2011
  40. ^ TYT Network Passes 5 MILLION Subscribers (Video). Youtube. 31 January 2016. 
  41. ^ "The Young Turks: Rebel Headquarters : News : Politics : Commentary". Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  42. ^ "The Young Turks: Welcome to The Young Turks Podcasting : News : Politics : Commentary". Archived from the original on January 6, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  43. ^ "Cenk Uygur at the RNC & DNC". 5 July 2016. 
  44. ^ Tobias, Andrew J. (July 21, 2016). "Alex Jones involved in another altercation at Republican National Convention". Retrieved August 19, 2016. 
  45. ^ "Keith Olbermann leaves MSNBC, speculation follows". The Washington Post. January 4, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  46. ^ "Cenk Uygur Exits MSNBC" "Hollywood Reporter" (July 20, 2011). Retrieved July 21, 2011
  47. ^ "Cenk Uygur, host of "MSNBC Live" since January, will be leaving MSNBC after declining a shift to another timeslot". Reuters. July 20, 2011. 
  48. ^ "Cenk Uygur Leaves MSNBC After Being Told to "Act Like an Insider"". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  49. ^ Mark Joyella (July 21, 2011). "MSNBC calls Cenk Uygur's Version of Departure 'Completely Baseless'". Mediaite. Retrieved October 26, 2011. 
  50. ^ "The Plan". Wolf PAC. Retrieved February 26, 2013. 
  51. ^ Uygur, Cenk (April 29, 2008). "Six Degrees of Barack Obama". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 28, 2011. I am a fervent agnostic. I have argued vehemently against religion .... I went to school in Turkey until I was eight 
  52. ^ Öz, Işıl (July 3, 2008). ""The Young Turks" is the first nationwide 'liberal talk show' in US". Turkish Journal. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  53. ^ "Cenk Uygur Finally Admits He's An Atheist". 
  54. ^ "Bill Maher & Sarah Palin Agree: Arrest Clock-Wielding Muslims Just In Case". The Young Turks Youtube Channel. 22 September 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  55. ^ "Truth-tellers Hirsi Ali, Uygur are FFRF's 'Emperor' awardees". Freedom From Religion Foundation. September 21, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  56. ^ Hallowell, Billy (May 30, 2012). "Teen Atheist who Brought Down Prayer Banner & Feminist Gloria Steinem to be Honored at Atheist Conference". The Blaze. New Orleans: Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  57. ^ "Prometheus Maximus Uygur Introduced on MSNBC" on YouTube (July 16, 2010). Retrieved November 3, 2011
  58. ^ "Congratulations to Cenk and family on the birth of their new daughter, Joy — but TYT crew still keeping it real". The Young Turks. The Young Turks. 15 October 2012. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2015. 
  59. ^ "#AskCenk: Why Socialism Doesn't Work & Turkish Protests". The Young Turks Youtube Channel. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 

External links

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Preceded by
Keith Olbermann
Chief News Officer, Current TV
Office abolished