News & Politics

Is Lou Dobbs, CNN's Resident Bigot, on His Way Out?

Protest campaigns urging CNN to dump Dobbs are gathering momentum. Will 'the most trusted name in news' do the right thing?

It's time to give Lou Dobbs the boot:  Add your name to AlterNet and CREDO's petition, and send him to the sidelines.

The heat on CNN to dump right-wing nativist news host Lou Dobbs has reached a boiling point.

Several grassroots and Internet campaigns urging CNN to drop Dobbs in response to his relentless hate-talk are gathering momentum and tens of thousands of signatures. Will Dobbs finally be stopped from using his on-air bully pulpit to bash immigrants and spread misleading and inaccurate information?

One major anti-Dobbs campaign, Basta Dobbs.com, calls Dobbs the "most dangerous man for Latinos in America."

Just how dangerous is Dobbs? According to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, "The rise in hate crimes against Latinos coincides almost exactly with the time Dobbs has been propagating false conspiracy theories about Latinos on the air. He's not urging people to go hurt and kill -- but that is the effect of what he does."

A recent poll of the top 100 Latino leaders, including members of Congress and business leaders, conducted by Bendixen and Associates for Democricia Ahora, showed that 89 percent had a negative opinion of Dobbs. Many believe him to be a racist and question his journalistic credentials. Seventy percent of those polled thought that a campaign aimed at ousting Dobbs was a good idea.

John Santore of Media Mattersexplains the position of DropDobbs.com, another coalition of groups, which include the National Council of La Raza, LULAC and the Southern Poverty Law Center, working for Dobbs' ouster:

For years, Lou Dobbs has been one of the most dangerous hosts on cable news. He benefits enormously from the legitimacy of the CNN brand, which provides him with an unparalleled platform from which to mainstream the hate-speech and racially charged conspiracy theories normally relegated to Fox News and other conservative news outlets.

Dobbs calls himself an "advocacy journalist," but he doesn't even live up to that ambiguous standard. Good journalism enhances the discussion of serious topics, but Dobbs helps to undermine and debase that discussion, routinely infusing it with misinformation and fear.

Meanwhile, Dobbs has become even more unhinged.

In a rambling, bizarre attack on one of his critics, Roberto Lovato, a key leader in the BastaDobbs.com campaign, Dobbs resorted to juvenile name calling, going so far as to call Lovato a "flea" and a "bozo."

Dobbs was set off by an AlterNet article in which Lovato charged that Dobbs postures as "the victimized defender of American virtue" in order to spread his bile.

A Big Problem

The intensity of the protests against Dobbs have made the news host a "big problem" for the network, sources inside CNN report. Closed-door discussions on Dobbs' fate appear to be under way.

CNN executives have a lot to talk about. The cable channel is losing market share, and Dobbs is leading the way in the drop in viewers. Raw Story reports that after harping on the Obama birth certificate story, Dobbs' ratings fell 15 percent -- in two weeks. 

Long-term, big-picture audience demographics should also figure in CNN's decision. The Latino market in the U.S is exploding. Naturally, CNN has much invested in its Spanish-speaking audience, and it is well aware that Latinos are not happy with the anti-immigrant Dobbs.

The more Dobbs viciously attacks Latino immigrants, the more he alienates the very audience that CNN is trying to woo. One insider said off the record that they think Dobbs will probably be gone by year's end.

CNN's Big Contradiction: Marketing to Latinos While Dobbs Alienates Them

The message aimed at CNN by the drop-Dobbs campaigns is, "How can you seemingly embrace your Latino audience with marketing and special programming
on the one hand, while allowing Dobbs to spread hate with the other?"

The BastaDobbs campaign is spearheaded by Lovato, as part of Presente.com, an online organizing effort affiliated with the Color of Change. CoC is the group credited with getting more than 60 advertisers to drop Fox's Glenn Beck Show.

I spoke with Lovato on Sept. 27, and he said this about the nationwide campaign against Dobbs' hate:

For many years, Latinos throughout the United States have organized local street protests and press conferences denouncing Dobbs' dangerous rhetoric. Think tanks have produced numerous reports proving the falsehoods and fakery that passes for "news" on Lou Dobbs Tonight. Yet, all we get are more silly outbursts from Dobbs -- and silence from CNN.

But now, Latinos and others come to realize Dobbs is not going to change. So it's time for us to take our fight to the real source of the problem, CNN itself.

We are going to make Jonathan Klein, the president of CNN, one of the most famous TV execs in America [Klein is responsible for management oversight of all programming, editorial tone and strategic direction of the network].

I'm encountering this disposition to fight in the 25 cities our campaign is organized in, and on the Internet. Dobbs and CNN are bringing unprecedented alignment and agreement between working-class and elite Latinos. 

I asked Lovato about his approach to pressuring CNN and the economics of the Latino audience. Lovato said:

CNN's moves to capture a segment of what many in media consider the "mission critical" Latino market are no secret. Latinos understand why we're seeing more of Rick Sanchez and other Latinos on CNN. We take note of the inclusion of Latino analysts, including Alex Castellanos and Leslie Sanchez; and we are curious about how CNN will treat us in its upcoming Latino in America series.

And we wonder why CNN isn't translating Lou Dobbs in Spanish for inclusion on CNN Espanol, which, by the way, is quite popular with Latinos at this point. But to watch sunny Soledad O'Brien singing the praises of Latino contributors to American society, while just a time slot away the dark, dour Lou Dobbs continues infecting the airwaves with deadly misinformation about "criminal illegal aliens" is just too much hypocrisy.

Regardless of CNN's big-money efforts to target the Latino market, the continuation of Dobbs' program guarantees that, for Latinos, the name "CNN" is synonymous with "anti-Latino hatred."

Ultimately, Dobbs' vicious attacks on immigrants -- often combined with bizarre red-baiting -- is not doing great things for the CNN brand. In fact, Dobbs' antics harshly distort its tag line: "The most trusted name in news."

For example, take a look at Dobbs' response to the national protest day, "A day without Immigrants" in 2006, here described by Daphne Eviatar, writing in The Nation:

... on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, it was a different story: "Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens and their supporters today failed in their attempt to shut down most of our cities to support amnesty for all illegal aliens," the network's 6 p.m. news anchor reported that evening.

Dobbs elaborated in his online column: "It is no accident that they chose May 1 as their day of demonstration and boycott. It is the worldwide day of commemorative demonstrations by various socialist, communist and even anarchic organizations. ... No matter which flag demonstrators and protesters carry today, their leadership is showing its true colors to all who will see.

You might expect that sort of McCarthyesque description from Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh or some other famously right-wing provocateur on Fox or talk radio. But Lou Dobbs, on CNN? These days, the network once pilloried by conservatives as a leading voice of the "liberal media" is offering an expansive platform to the nation's leading spokesman for anti-immigration hard-liners. 

There are countless other critiques of Dobbs, dating back more than three years. The charges, listed by the DropDobbs campaign, and documented by Media Matters, include:

  • Dobbs spreads leprosy falsehood in claiming "invasion of illegal aliens" threatening Americans' "health."
  • Dobbs has close ties to "hate group" Federation for American Immigration Reform.
  • Dobbs smeared U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as "interested in the export of American capital and production to Mexico, and Mexico's export of drugs and illegal aliens."
  • Dobbs advanced racially charged conspiracy theories about Obama's birth certificate.
  • Dobbs said Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination was "absolute pandering to the Hispanics." Dobbs declared "Mexico has become our enemy."

A more thorough list of Dobbs' hate speech can be found on the DropDobbs site.

It's time to give Lou Dobbs the boot:  Add your name to AlterNet and CREDO's petition and send him to the sidelines.

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.
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