Cenk Uygur

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Cenk Uygur
Cenk Uygur at Streamys.jpg
Uygur in 2010
Born Cenk Kadir Uygur
(1970-03-21) March 21, 1970 (age 48)
Istanbul, Turkey
Residence West Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States
Ethnicity Turkish
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 Independent (1992-present)
Republican (before 1992)[1]
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 a Turkish-American columnist, political commentator and activist. Uygur is the main host and co-founder of the American liberal/progressive political and social internet commentary program, The Young Turks (TYT) and the co-founder of the associated TYT Network. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Uygur was born in Turkey and raised from age eight in the United States. He worked as an attorney in Washington, D.C. and New York before beginning his career as a political commentator. As a young man, Uygur espoused socially conservative views, criticizing feminism, abortion, and affirmative action. He is now a progressive.[2][3]

In addition to hosting TYT, Uygur appeared on MSNBC as a political commentator in 2010, later hosting a weeknight commentary show on the channel for nearly six months until being replaced by Al Sharpton.[4] Shortly after leaving MSNBC, Uygur secured a show on Current TV that aired from December 5, 2011 to August 15, 2013.[5] Uygur was from 2012 to 2013 the chief news officer of Current TV, succeeding Keith Olbermann following his departure from the cable television network until Current was acquired by Al Jazeera Media Network.[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 attended 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 also earned a law 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]

Uygur has changed his positions in recent years[when?][17] and is now a progressive.[2][3] On social issues, Uygur is pro-choice on abortion[18] and supports LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage.[19] In 2009, he advocated the liberalization of drug laws, arguing that the War on Drugs has been a failure, as shown by the continuing violence in Mexico and the border region.[citation needed] He also opposes imprisoning non-violent drug offenders for marijuana possession.[20] He previously supported capital punishment, but now opposes it largely due to multiple exonerations of death row inmates since its reinstatement. [21]

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),[22] 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".[23]

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.[24] He has also repeatedly criticized Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.[25]

Armenian Genocide

Uygur has previously expressed denial of the Armenian Genocide in letters published by The Daily Pennsylvanian in 1991 and Salon in 1999. In the first one, titled “Historical Fact or Falsehood?”, he states "If the history of the period is examined it becomes evident that in fact no such genocide took place."[26] He repeated this view in his letter to the editor of Salon in 1999.[27] In 2012, Uygur's letters later drew criticism from the west-coast affiliate of the Armenian National Committee of America and the California Armenian American Democrats who subsequently staged protests during his speech at the California Democratic Party 2012 State Convention with the support of Charles Calderon and Janice Hahn.[28][29][30]

At a progressive caucus of the California Democratic Party meeting on February 11, 2012, Cenk stressed that "The Young Turks" title referenced the phrase as it applies to any generic progressive political movement that threatens to upend the established order, and was not an endorsement of the Young Turks' regime in the Ottoman State of Turkey.[31]

On Democratic politicians and officeholders

The 2000 election was the first time Uygur voted Democratic, supporting Al Gore. 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".[32] 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".[33]

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 U.S. 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."[34] 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,[35] despite his disagreements with the president.[36]

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.[37] 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 effect the American Public.[38] Uygur has continued to be heavily critical on Obama and the Obama Administration on NSA related topics ever since.

Uygur himself has 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.[39]

The Young Turks

Uygur created the talk show The Young Turks with the goal of starting a moderate liberal political and entertainment show.[6][40] It launched on 13 February 2002. It later became a success online, and aired on the Sirius Satellite Radio network.[41] 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. Collectively it has amassed over 1,000,000,000 (a billion) views on YouTube, and over 1,000,000 subscribers. Video of the show is streamed daily on its website and is available as a podcast.[42][43]

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.[citation needed]. The show on Current TV ended on August 15, 2013 with the end of all live programing on Current.


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,[44][45] 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.[46]

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.[47] MSNBC denied the claim, saying that "We did have numerous conversations with Cenk about his style, not substance."[48]

Radio and television appearances

Uygur has appeared on numerous occasions on MSNBC, CNN Headline News, E! Entertainment Television, Al Jazeera English, RT, ABC News, Voice of America, NPR and the Fox News Channel.[49] He was a regular guest on The Dylan Ratigan Show for a segment opposite various conservative commentators. On several occasions, Uygur filled in for the MSNBC shows of Ratigan,[50] Ed Schultz, and Keith Olbermann, both before and after becoming a regular paid contributor to MSNBC in October 2010.

Jon Stewart showed clips of Uygur on Comedy Central's The Daily Show in August and September 2010; in one instance Uygur spoke on internet neutrality, and in the other, he commented on pastor Terry Jones and his Koran burning controversy.[51][52] On December 22, 2010 Uygur interviewed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on MSNBC's The Dylan Ratigan Show.[53] He appeared on George Galloway's political radio show on February 11, 2011 as an American correspondent, explaining problems he perceives with American politics for a British audience.[54] He hosted Good Day L.A. in March 2012.[55]


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.[56]

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.[57][58][59][60] 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.[61][62] He is married to Wendy Lang Uygur, a marriage and family therapist. They are the parents of one son, born in July 2010,[63] and a daughter, born in October 2012.[64] Cenk has stated that he grew up a fan of the Fenerbahçe soccer team.[65]

See also


  1. Cenk Uygur Goes #OffTheGrid - Jesse Ventura Off The Grid - Ora TV. YouTube. 10 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rampell, Ed. "Cenk Uygur". The Progressive. 76 (8). Retrieved June 30, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Cenk Uygur bringing Young Turks to TV". UPI. Sep 20, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Brian Stelter (July 20, 2011). "Sharpton Appears to Win Anchor Spot on MSNBC". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Stelter, Brian (September 20, 2011). "Current TV Hires Cenk Uygur". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Madlena, Chavala (April 26, 2010). "Cenk Uygur on the success of The Young Turks". Guardian. London. Retrieved May 27, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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 Mediabistro.com<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Coming to America!". The Young Turks. YouTube. June 14, 2007. Retrieved December 8, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. https://youtube.com/WVl3BJoEoAU?t=28m51s "That's why I left Islam"
  10. 10.0 10.1 Cenk Uygur (October 18, 1991). "Where are the White Christians?". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved June 15, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Drew W Zoller (April 25, 1991). "Turk, Armenian dispute raised at SAC". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved July 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Cenk Uygur". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 28, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Uygur, Cenk (c. 2007). "User Profile for Cenk Uygur (cuygur)". Confabb. Retrieved February 28, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Cenk Uygur (November 8, 1991). "For Feminists". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved June 15, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Cenk Uygur (December 5, 1991). "A Federation of Humanity". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved June 15, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Uygur, Cenk; Kasparian, Ana. "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKifAdn8HCQ". YouTube. The Young Turks. Retrieved 25 March 2015. External link in |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Uygur, Cenk. "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ux24lklcY". YouTube. Fighting for Equality! HRC.org. Retrieved 25 March 2015. External link in |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Uygur, Cenk; Kasparian, Ana. "Megan McCain Smokes Pot - Does Cenk?". YouTube. The Young Turks. Retrieved 25 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-list-those-freed-death-row
  22. Porn Actress Belle Knox Is A Big Rand Paul Fan. YouTube. 30 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "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<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8GMNwDJzgo Breakdown of Netanyahu's Appearance in US Congress ] on YouTube
  25. "Conservatives Win In Canada Elections". The Young Turks. YouTube. May 3, 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Uygur, Cenk (1991-11-20). "Historical Fact or Falsehood?". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Archived from the original on 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2012-06-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Letters to the Editor". salon.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "ANCA-WR OPEN LETTER TO CA DEMOCRATIC PARTY". Armenian National Committee - Western Region.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Armenian Council of America on CA Democrats convention". CS Media. Retrieved 16 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Armenians Protest Uygur Talk at Democratic Convention". Retrieved 16 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Cenk Uygur Fails To Address Past Comments Denying The Armenian Genocide". Retrieved February 26, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Uygur, Cenk (February 25, 2011). "President Obama Vs Himself On Unions". The Young Turks. YouTube. Retrieved February 28, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Uygur, Cenk (6 November 2012). "Why Obama Will Disappoint Progressives and I Voted for Him Anyway". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 25 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. Video on YouTube
  38. Video on YouTube
  39. "Cenk 2016? TYT Canada? Chief of Staff? BFD Joe Biden (Twitter Storm)". YouTube. Retrieved 15 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. Stein, Sam (August 19, 2011). "'Professional Left' Saga Says More About Media Than Obama". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 21, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. Tina Dupuy, "Cenk Uygur Sets Out to Take Down Traditional Television" Fast Company (December 1, 2009). Retrieved March 9, 2011
  42. "The Young Turks: Rebel Headquarters : News : Politics : Commentary". Retrieved August 29, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. "The Young Turks: Welcome to The Young Turks Podcasting : News : Politics : Commentary". Retrieved August 29, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
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  45. "Cenk Uygur Exits MSNBC" "Hollywood Reporter" (July 20, 2011). Retrieved July 21, 2011
  46. "Cenk Uygur, host of "MSNBC Live" since January, will be leaving MSNBC after declining a shift to another timeslot". Reuters. July 20, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  47. "Cenk Uygur Leaves MSNBC After Being Told to "Act Like an Insider"". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 15 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  54. "George Galloway and Cenk Uygur discuss the Revolution in Egypt" FreedomWar.ORG (February 16, 2011). Retrieved May 11, 2011 Archived August 16, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  55. Uygur, Cenk (7 March 2012). "Tweet: Cenk Uygur hosting Good Day LA with Dorothy Lucey and Jillian Barberie". Twitter.com. Retrieved February 26, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  56. "The Plan". Wolf PAC. Retrieved February 26, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  57. 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<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  59. http://www.vidinfo.org/video/9465238/cenk-uygur-finally-admits-hes-an-atheist
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  61. "Truth-tellers Hirsi Ali, Uygur are FFRF's 'Emperor' awardees". Freedom From Religion Foundation. September 21, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  63. "Prometheus Maximus Uygur Introduced on MSNBC" on YouTube (July 16, 2010). Retrieved November 3, 2011
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  65. "#AskCenk: Why Socialism Doesn't Work & Turkish Protests". The Young Turks Youtube Channel. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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