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Cenk Uygur

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Cenk Uygur
Cenk Uygur hosting The Young Turks in 2015
Uygur in 2016
Cenk Kadir Uygur

(1970-03-21) March 21, 1970 (age 54)
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (BS)
Columbia University (JD)
  • Political commentator
  • media host
  • politician
Political partyDemocratic (since 2007)
Other political
Independent (2000–2007)
Republican (until 2000)[1]
SpouseWendy Lang
RelativesHasan Piker (nephew)

Cenk Kadir Uygur (/ˈɛŋk kəˈdɪr ˈjɡər/; Turkish: [ˈdʒeɲc kaˈdiɾ ˈujɡuɾ]; born March 21, 1970) is a Turkish-born American[2] politician, political commentator, and media host. He is the co-creator of The Young Turks, a left-wing, progressive, sociopolitical news and commentary program.

In 1996, Uygur worked briefly as an associate attorney. He launched and began hosting The Young Turks in 2002. In 2011, in addition he appeared briefly on MSNBC as a political commentator (he was replaced by Al Sharpton), and then from 2011 to 2013 he appeared on a weeknight commentary show on Current TV. In 2017, Uygur co-founded the progressive political action committee Justice Democrats.

In 2020, Uygur was a candidate in both the special election as well as the regularly scheduled election for California's 25th congressional district. Uygur's candidacy was considered by some to be controversial due to his past comments about women, minority groups including the LGBTQ+ community, Asians, religious Jews and Muslims, and others, which were considered offensive but that he described as taken out of context.[3][4] He ultimately lost both elections, being placed fourth overall and second amongst Democrats after receiving six and seven percent of the vote, respectively.[citation needed]

Uygur announced his candidacy in the 2024 Democratic presidential primaries in October 2023, despite not being a natural-born U.S. citizen as required. He expected the requirement to be overturned by the courts in the event of his victory due to the Equal Protection clause, emulating an unsuccessful argument previously made by ineligible candidate Abdul Hassan, in 2012.[5] Uygur withdrew from the race on March 6, 2024.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Uygur was born in Istanbul, Turkey, to a wealthy Turkish Muslim family. He emigrated with his family to the United States when he was eight years old.[7] He spent the remainder of his upbringing in East Brunswick, New Jersey, and graduated from East Brunswick High School.[7] Uygur was raised in a secular Muslim household, but became more religious during college.[8] He says that he then became agnostic and still identifies as a cultural Muslim.[7][8][9]

Although a “D” in high school calculus almost kept Uygur out, he transferred into the undergraduate Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in management and graduated in 1992.[10][11] There, he wrote a school paper column in 1991 in which he criticized affirmative action for blacks and other minorities.[12][13] He also criticized campus feminists for “making Anita Hill their patron saint,” and made disparaging comments about women.[14][15][12] He also said that all of the discussion about rape on campus was making men afraid.[12]

Representing the Turkish Students Association on the university's Student Activities Council, Uygur argued against a $228 allocation to the Armenian Club in the council budget; council members overwhelmingly voted against him, and uncharacteristically applauded after his defeat was announced.[16][12] In November 1991, he wrote an article in The Daily Pennsylvanian titled "Historical Fact or Falsehood?", in which he denied the Armenian genocide and asserted: "The claims of an Armenian genocide are not based on historical facts. If the history of the period is examined it becomes evident that in fact no such genocide took place."[17] He has since denounced these statements and reversed his position (though the credibility of his denouncement has been questioned by Stephan Pechdimaldji in TheWrap).[18][19][15][20] He received a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School.[21]


Early career[edit]

Uygur worked briefly in 1996 as an associate attorney. He practiced first at the law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath in Washington, D.C., and then at Hayes & Liebman in New York City.[7][12]

He then worked in 1996 as a weekend/fill-in radio talk show host on WRKO in Boston, Massachusetts, and also that year in a similar position on WWRC in Washington, D.C.[22] He bought time on a local access channel in Washington, D.C., where he made political commentary on his show called The Young Turk.[23]

In 1999, he wrote for, produced, and appeared on a WAMI-TV news show, The Times in Miami, Florida.[22][24] He then started The Young Turks (TYT) on Sirius Satellite Radio.[22][24] That year, Uygur wrote on a blog post on the TYT website: "It seems like there is a sea of tits here, and I am drinking in tiny droplets. Obviously, the genes of women are flawed. They are poorly designed creatures who do not want to have sex nearly as often as needed for the human race to get along peaceably and fruitfully."[12] He also wrote, in a letter to the editor in Salon, that talk of an Armenian genocide was simply propaganda.[17] In a July 21, 2001, post about Native American tribes filing a lawsuit against tobacco companies for deliberately targeting Indian teens, Uygur wrote: “these Redskins show up everywhere there’s a buck to be made these days."[25] In the 2000s, Uygur maintained a weekly blog on The Huffington Post and wrote entries that were critical of the 2003 Iraq war.[26][27]

The Young Turks[edit]

Uygur in 2010

Uygur created the left-wing, progressive talk show The Young Turks with the goal of starting a liberal-leaning political and entertainment show.[28][29][30][31] It launched on the Sirius Satellite Radio network on February 14, 2002, and was also on the Air America radio network between 2006 and 2008.[30][32][33] Uygur and his co-host Ana Kasparian applied a populist-left branding and programming strategy that made TYT a global online organization.[34][35][36]

The show's name has been criticized by Armenian-Americans, because the original Young Turks political movement in the Ottoman Empire was responsible for committing the Armenian genocide.[37][38][39] Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America said about Uygur and the show's name:

Denying a genocide, belittling its survivors, and then naming your political show after its perpetrators should be troubling not only to Armenian Americans, but anyone concerned about human rights. Cenk Uygur... did just this ....[17]

The Young Turks began a daily news video show on YouTube in 2005, and claims to have been the first on the streaming service.[40] Uygur regularly states that The Young Turks is the largest online news show in the world, and has claimed so since at least 2011.[41] It has amassed over 5 billion views on YouTube, and over 5 million subscribers, for a U.S. rank of #5,566.[42][43][44] Leveraging the strength of The Young Turks talk show, Uygur expanded it into a network of channels and shows, beginning with Pop Trigger on July 5, 2007.[45] Video of the show is streamed daily on its website, as well as on YouTube, YouTubeTV, via various streaming platforms, broadcast on a handful of local television channels throughout the United States, and is available as a podcast.[46][47]

In September 2011, while Uygur had been seeking a television platform for The Young Turks for years, a weeknight TV edition of the show was announced on fledgling Current TV, which had low ratings,[48][29] at 7 p.m. EST (M–F) on the network beginning sometime in the fourth quarter of 2011.[49][50][51] The show on Current TV began in December 2011, to low viewership,[52] and ended on August 15, 2013, with the end of all live programming on Current TV.[citation needed]

In 2015, Uygur hosted ex-Ku Klux Klan leader and white supremacist neo-Nazi David Duke on the show in an anti-Semitic segment about “how Jews control everything."[53][52] In 2019, he tweeted that Evangelical Christians harbored the worst anti-Semitism in the world.[54]

In May 2018, The Young Turks launched its own TV-format 24-hour channel on YouTube TV, which includes both live and prerecorded programming.[55]

Uygur hired his nephew, Hasan Piker, to work for the show.[56]


MSNBC hired Uygur as a contributor and substitute anchor for the network on October 21, 2010.[57][58][59] On January 21, 2011, Uygur was appointed as the host of the 6 p.m. Eastern slot on MSNBC as the anchor of a new prime time edition of MSNBC Live, resulting in a rearrangement of the time slots of MSNBC's other prime time shows. Uygur filled the time slot for six months, from late January through June 2011.[60][61][62]

Management saw the style of several hosts, including Uygur, as off-base from MSNBC's branding objectives that resulted in their demotion.[63] According to Uygur, Phil Griffin, the President of MSNBC, disliked his "aggressive style" and told him the network's audience "require different manners of speaking".[63] MSNBC denied Uygur's statements that the network desired censorship of his anti-corporate stances, and both sides agreed that their main differences of opinion were about the style of communication.[63] His contract was ended when he was offered to move to weekend slot, but he declined, and was replaced by Al Sharpton, who by September had attracted 4% higher ratings.[64][63][65][66] After leaving cable news, Uygur devoted his attention to TYT.[63] Uygur over time became disillusioned with traditional media establishments.[58]


Uygur speaking at the People's Climate March in Washington, D.C. in April 2017

Uygur has supported the removal of corporate donations from the political system, and he said that "campaign finance reform" is the "only one issue" in the United States.[67][68] Several Supreme Court rulings (1976, 1978, 2010) on campaign finance motivated Uygur[69][70] during the Occupy Wall Street movement to launch a long-term project, a political action committee named Wolf-PAC, on October 19, 2011, in New York City.[71][72] Wolf-PAC aims to lobby state legislators to pass resolutions calling for a Convention of the States under Article V of the U.S. 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.[73] As of 2017, five states had passed a resolution calling for such a convention, though not all states used identical language in their convention call.[74]

According to filings with the Federal Elections Commission, during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, Wolf-PAC devoted nearly 80% of its disbursements to salaries and administrative costs. Jonah Bennett quipped in The Daily Caller: "Cenk Uygur is so intent on keeping money out of politics his own PAC spends virtually all its donor money on personnel and operating expenses."[75]

Justice Democrats[edit]

On January 23, 2017, Uygur co-founded the Justice Democrats along with Kyle Kulinski, a political commentator who had been affiliated with Uygur's Young Turks network.[76][77][78] The group seeks to steer the Democratic Party in the strongly progressive, social democratic or democratic socialist[78] direction espoused by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. The group has supported progressive candidates in primaries against politicians whom they consider to be moderate and conservative Democrats,[79][78] such as Joe Manchin,[80] Joe Crowley,[81] and Dianne Feinstein.[82]

Uygur was forced out of the Justice Democrats on December 22, 2017, following the discovery of blog posts that he had written in the early 2000s in which he made statements that were described by Justice Democrats leadership as "sexist and racist".[83][3][84][85][86] The next day, Uygur apologized and denounced his past statements in a video on The Young Turks channel on YouTube. In an interview with TheWrap, Uygur said he had deleted the "ugly" posts a decade ago, and added: "The stuff I wrote back then was really insensitive and ignorant. If you read that today, what I wrote 18 years ago, and you're offended by it, you're 100 percent right. And anyone who is subjected to that material, I apologize to. And I deeply regret having written that stuff when I was a different guy".[87] Uygur said that he wrote the posts while he was still a conservative, before he underwent a political transformation and became a liberal; he asserted that he "had not yet matured" and "was still a conservative who thought that stuff was politically incorrect and edgy". Uygur added, "If someone said that today, I would heavily criticize them on the show and rightfully so, and I have. I've criticized myself over the years".[87][88]

Rebellion PAC[edit]

In 2020, he co-founded Rebellion PAC, a political action committee with a focus on running advertisements in support of progressive electoral candidates, alongside Brianna Wu.[89]

Political campaigns[edit]

2020 U.S. House of Representatives candidacy[edit]

Uygur with Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in California in 2016

In mid-November 2019, Uygur filed to run for Congress in California's 25th district, a seat recently vacated by the resignation of Katie Hill. He did this despite the fact that he did not live in the district.[83] Other candidates included Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos.[90][91][92] Uygur ran in two primary elections on March 3, 2020: the special election primary to fill the vacant seat through January 2021 and the Democratic primary for the next full term (decided in the 2020 November election). Uygur raised over $100,000 in small donations in the first three hours after announcing his candidacy.[93] That figure rose to $796,000 in the remainder of the quarter.[94]

Uygur positioned himself as left-wing, supporting single-payer healthcare, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and overturning Citizens United v. FEC. In the wake of the 2019 Saugus High School shooting, he supported strict gun control laws.[95] He criticized his Democratic opponent, Christy Smith, for her opposition to Medicare for All.[96][97] Uygur's primary issue was to get money out of politics.[98] He also opposed war with Iran and supported passing the Green New Deal.[99][100][101]

Uygur's candidacy was initially endorsed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, then a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, on December 12, 2019.[102] However, on December 13, 2019, Sanders retracted his support after offensive sexual comments that Uygur had long made about women, demeaning comments that he had made about blacks (using the N-word on his show multiple times), and provocative statements that he had made about fundamentalist Muslims and Jews in years prior were brought to his attention.[3][8][103][102] The same day, Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) withdrew his endorsement of Uygur, saying that Uygur's statements "were wrong and hurtful."[53]

At least a dozen women's, LGBTQ, and Democratic organizations denounced comments he had made as sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-Islam, and anti-Semitic.[53] Mark Gonzalez, the chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, said of him: "This man has spent decades, including up until recently, attacking women, the LGBTQ community, Jews, Muslims, Asian-Americans and African Americans. His vulgarity, his hate speech and divisive rhetoric have no place in our party." Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, the chairman of California Young Democrats, said "Cenk has a history of racist and homophobic and misogynistic comments that are inconsistent with the Democratic Party."[3] Uygur claimed that there was a coordinated campaign against him by the media and political establishments.[8][104][failed verification]

Uygur ultimately lost both elections, receiving 6% and 7% of the vote, respectively.[105][106][107][108] As no candidate earned 50 percent of the vote or more, the top two vote-earners, Christy Smith and navy officer Mike Garcia, advanced to the runoff,[109] with Garcia eventually winning the election.

2024 presidential campaign[edit]

Cenk Uygur
Campaign2024 United States presidential election (Democratic Party primaries)
CandidateCenk Uygur
AnnouncedOctober 11, 2023
SuspendedMarch 6, 2024

Uygur has said that he will run for president of the United States. As of early December 2023, he has failed in his efforts to be listed on a number of state primary ballots, because he does not meet the U.S. constitutional requirement to be a natural-born citizen in order to serve as president.

In September 2023, Uygur said that he was preparing to launch a potential challenge to President Joe Biden in the 2024 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[110][111] Asserting that Biden is too old and will be unable to defeat Trump, Uygur has encouraged Biden not to seek re-election.[112] Uygur said that, if no progressive challenger announced a campaign, he would start his own campaign to attempt to encourage other Democrats to challenge Biden.[111]

Uygur would not meet the constitutional requirements to serve as U.S. president under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen, that is to say he became a citizen after his birth. Not being a citizen at his birth precludes him from being considered a "natural-born U.S. citizen," which is a requisite for presidential eligibility.[113] Uygur has claimed his eligibility, citing a 2006 UIC law review paper by a law school graduate on a 1964 case entitled Schneider v. Rusk.[114][115][116] He claims that he has a "slam dunk" legal case.[117][118] Writing in The Daily Targum in October 2023, Kiran Subramanian questioned Uygur's ability to make this case and gain popular support, concluding that "his calculations are completely absurd and put his view of the world into question."[119]

On October 11, Uygur officially announced his presidential campaign.[117][120] He filed for the Nevada ballot that same day, but was not allowed on it after he submitted an altered form.[121] Similarly, Uygur's New Hampshire ballot application was denied by New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan on October 18; Uygur said that he would file lawsuits, but did not specify any jurisdictions.[122] Uygur appealed the New Hampshire decision to the state's Ballot Law Commission, which unanimously rejected his appeal on November 2, noting that the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire has held that because the natural born citizen clause has not been repealed, New Hampshire state laws requiring all presidential candidates to affirm that they are natural born citizens are constitutional."[123][124][125] Similarly, Uygur filed, but was not certified, for the South Carolina Democratic Party presidential primary ballot, given that he does not meet constitutional requirements to hold the office of president of the United States.[126] Uygur unsuccessfully sued the South Carolina Election Commission and the South Carolina Democratic Party over his exclusion from the ballot.[127][128] After Uygur had submitted his paperwork to Arkansas and the Arkansas Democratic Party,[129] the state's election officials denied him ballot access on December 4.[130] On December 18, 2023, Uygur's campaign issued a press release[131] indicating that he was on primary ballots for the following states: Minnesota,[132] Oklahoma,[133] Texas,[134] and Vermont.[135] It was confirmed in January that Uygur was placed on the ballot in Connecticut.[136]

Uygur indicated to The Hill in late November 2023 that his campaign had raised more than $250,000 since it started.[137]

Political affiliation and views[edit]

Once a Republican, Uygur says that he has "enormous disdain for the Republican Party."[22] At the same time, he said of Barack Obama: "He’s conservative in his bones, so I’ve got no love for Obama whatsoever."[4] Uygur is critical of the New Democrats wing of the Democratic Party, which he regards as the incumbent political establishment.[138] He has called for the Democratic Party to undergo a revitalization process.[58]

Uygur slowly transitioned away from the Republican Party and conservative politics. He has cited the decision to invade Iraq as a "seminal moment" in that transition.[139] A progressive, Uygur is known for criticizing both Democratic and Republican politicians, accusing many of being influenced by donors.[140][86][141]

In 2000, Uygur voted for John McCain in the Republican primaries; however he did not vote for McCain in the 2008 United States presidential election due to his perceived proximity to the Christian right and his views on taxes and waterboarding.[142] Uygur supported the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020.[143][144][145]


In 2010, along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Uygur accepted the "Emperor Has No Clothes Award" from the Freedom From Religion Foundation[146] and later the Humanist Media Award from the American Humanist Association.[147]


Comments about women[edit]

In the early 2000s, Uygur posted a series of blog posts which were described as sexist. One post said, "I had one of the best nights of my life at Mardi Gras. I kissed over 23 different women, saw and felt countless breasts, and was in a wonderful drunken stupor thanks to my friend John Daniels." Another post said, "It seems like there is a sea of tits here, and I am drinking in tiny droplets. I want to dive into the whole god damn ocean." Uygur would delete and later apologize for his comments.[148]

In a 2011 episode of The Young Turks, Uygur and his cohost Ana Kasparian dismissed actress Olivia Munn's sexual harassment allegations against director Brett Ratner, and Uygur defended Ratner bragging about having sex with Munn, saying that she likely "drove him crazy". Uygur would later apologize for his comments.[149][150] In one episode in 2013, Uygur ranked women on a scale of 1-to-10 on how likely men would be to let them perform oral sex on them.[151] That same year, Uygur said a model looked “like she’d just come out of a [concentration] camp.”[53]

In 2013, Uygur made lewd remarks about women's physical appearances in Miami, saying "the women on this island are outrageously, almost unacceptably, hot."[152][153] In 2017, an unnamed TYT employee told TheWrap that Uygur spoke inappropriately about women.[152][154]

In 2016, Uygur defended the Harvard University men's soccer team for ranking the sexual appeal of female students on a scale of 1-to-10 on a widely shared “scouting report,” including explicit descriptions of potential sex acts with the women.[151][152] Uygur defended his comments, telling The Los Angeles Times that he should not be criticized for having "frank conversations about sex."[155]

Response to unionization of TYT staff[edit]

In February 2020, when the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees sought to unionize The Young Turks, Uygur controversially urged his employees not to do so.[156][157] Uygur allegedly fired employee Jacorey Palmer for his pro-union activities, and, according to an anonymous TYT employee, Uygur allegedly withheld bonuses and increases from employees who were involved in the union drive. Uygur denied the charges. Uygur's position toward the union was criticized as hypocritical by The New Republic due to his claims of support for unions and progressive causes.[158][159]

Electoral history[edit]

2020 California's 25th congressional district special election[160]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Christy Smith 58,563 36.2%
Republican Mike Garcia 41,169 25.4%
Republican Steve Knight 27,799 17.2%
Democratic Cenk Uygur 10,609 6.6%
Democratic Aníbal Valdez-Ortega 7,368 4.6%
Republican Courtney Lackey 3,072 1.9%
Democratic Robert Cooper III 2,962 1.8%
Republican David Lozano 2,758 1.7%
Republican Daniel Mercuri 2,533 1.6%
Republican Kenneth Jenks 2,528 1.6%
Democratic Getro F. Elize 1,414 0.9%
Democratic David Rudnick 1,085 0.7%
Total votes 161,860 100%
2020 California's 25th congressional district election[161][162]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Christy Smith 49,679 31.7%
Republican Mike Garcia 37,381 23.9%
Republican Steve Knight 29,645 18.9%
Democratic Cenk Uygur 9,246 5.9%
Democratic Getro Franck Elize 6,317 4.0%
Republican David Lozano 6,272 4.0%
Democratic Anibal Valdéz-Ortega 4,920 3.1%
Democratic Robert Cooper III 4,474 2.9%
Republican George Papadopoulos 2,749 1.8%
No party preference Otis Lee Cooper 2,183 1.4%
Democratic Christopher C. Smith (withdrawn) 2,089 1.3%
Republican Daniel Mercuri 913 0.6%
Republican Kenneth Jenks 682 0.4%
Total votes 156,550 100.0%

Personal life[edit]

Uygur is Turkish-American, and is natively fluent in both Turkish and English.[52] He is married to Wendy Lang—a marriage and family therapist who is the founder of Beverly Hills Child and Family Counseling—and they have two children.[163][164]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by Chief News Officer of Current TV
Position abolished