Media

CNN Most Trusted Name in News? Not for Latinos

Lou Dobbs is using his bully pulpit to launch vitriolic attacks against immigrants. So what does it matter if the channel also has a special Latinos in America series?

When I watch CNN’s “Latino in America” documentary this week, it will be the first time that I tune in to the network in years.

I don’t watch CNN because the network profits from hate speech against the Latino community by putting Lou Dobbs on the air every night. And I know I’m not the only Latino who feels this way.

Dobbs is using his bully pulpit to launch vitriolic attacks against Latino immigrants. He has repeatedly spread lies and made bogus claims, like the one that Latinos are responsible for 7,000 cases of leprosy in America. (There are actually far fewer U.S. leprosy cases, and the disease has nothing whatsoever to do with Latinos.)

Worse, Dobbs has proudly promoted the most extremist anti-Latino and anti-immigrant groups like the Minutemen American Defense. A leader of that group is suspected in the murder in June of nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father Raul in Arizona.

That’s just one of the shocking and tragic hate crimes that have occurred recently but that have been largely ignored by the national media. Last year in Shenandoah, Penn., teenagers yelled racial epithets at 25-year-old Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala, saying, “Go back to Mexico,” while beating him to death.

According to the FBI, hate crimes against Latinos soared by 40 percent from 2003 to 2007 — likely a conservative figure, since many Latino immigrants are afraid to report crimes to the police.

Yet CNN continues to profit from a show that unabashedly creates an increasingly dangerous, intolerant, anti-immigrant environment. As long as Dobbs continues to get ratings and make money, the network seems unconcerned about what he says – even while simultaneously and awkwardly trying to reach out to the fast-growing Latino market with programs like “Latino in America.”

Big media companies may soon realize that it’s against their economic and political interests to align themselves with the likes of Dobbs. Two new major efforts are being organized to pressure CNN to get rid of Dobbs.

Presente.org launched the BastaDobbs.comcampaign and just released a moving videothat calls out CNN for its hypocrisy for employing Dobbs while also airing a documentary that will showcase Latinos. Presente is organizing local groups in at least 25 cities.

Another campaign, DropDobbs.org, was launched by several national civil rights groups, including the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC).— which also has called on the FCC to study the impact of hate speech on our society.

As NCLR’s Lisa Navarrete recently told Media Minutes:

“Accountability is what we’re seeking here, not to imperil anyone’s free speech. … It’s about making sure that people uphold journalistic standards and making sure that we have accuracy, balance and fairness in news.”

I hope millions of Latinos watch “Latino in America” to show the network how big their audience could be if they treated Latinos with more respect. I am also going to watch and see whether CNN allowed its journalists to address the role that talk show hosts like Dobbs have had on the rise of hate speech and hate crimes in our country.

CNN likes to promote itself as “the most trusted name in news.”  It’s not too late to make that more than a slogan.

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