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Roland Martin isn’t leaving CNN quietly

RolMart| AP file

Roland Martin | AP file

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Updated: April 26, 2013 6:11AM



‘New boss wants his own peeps.” That very Roland-esque tweet announced the CNN swan song of Roland Martin, the energizer bunny of American punditry.

Last week, the battery fizzled as the CNN commentator announced the cable network had declined to renew his contract.

Martin’s trademark ascot is wilting, his bunny hop is listing.

The announcement ended a colorfully bombastic six-year run at the network, where Martin opined on politics, policy, popular culture, religion and just about everything else.

As Martin’s social media sayonara suggests, there is a new sheriff in CNN Town. Under incoming President Jeff Zucker, talking heads are rolling, in and out. Out: Martin and Soledad O’Brien, perhaps the network’s highest-profile anchor of color, are out. In: several other well-known white journalists, including ABC veterans Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo.

Martin’s last day at CNN will be April 6. But he isn’t going out in a blaze of blackness. He’s not playing the race card. That’s a surprise, as no one is better at using race as a battering ram than Roland Martin, the master self-marketer.

Since Martin’s tenure as executive editor of the Chicago Defender, he has been known as the Call-out King.

Chicagoans watched as Martin laid the groundwork for his rapid rise to network stardom, astutely using the historic but fading black newspaper to boost his own profile.

He specializes in calling out sacred cows and personalities much bigger than he is, such as Oprah Winfrey, President George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, for their failings.

Watch him mix it up on the CNN set. You can almost see the bruises his sharp elbows leave behind.

Instead, Martin is using his firing to toot his own tuba. Loudly.

In a dispatch to Richard Prince’s “Journal-isms” website, Martin ticked off the names of CNN colleagues he would “miss dearly,” as well as security guards, janitorial workers and “the people I most spoke for; those were the people who would cheer me on as I walked down the streets, in the grocery store; and at airports.”

Then comes the boldface names. “I have had the likes of Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Spike Lee, Halle Berry, and others in sports and entertainment thank me for being an unwavering and unapologetic voice of truth.”

That’s vintage Martin. Even as he heads out the door, he is pushing his brand.

He pronounces: “I will continue with my show on TV One, a network I was with before CNN; will continue my daily segment on the Tom Joyner Morning Show; and will continue my nationally syndicated column.”

The resume is in the mail.

Martin has never been subtle, but he is playing a sophisticated game. He knows that, the next time a network is looking to save face, another slot will open for a face of color.

He doesn’t have to play the race card. It’s always lurking in the background.



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