Lou Dobbs recently announced that he is resigning from CNN, and not a moment too soon.
On November 11, the incendiary news anchor and host of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” announced that the evening’s broadcast would be his last. He said that “some leaders in media politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN, and to engage in constructive problem solving, as well as to contribute positively to a better understanding of the great issues of our day, and to continue to do so in the most honest and direct language possible.”
But during his tenure at CNN, Dobbs was neither constructive nor positive in dealing with the nation’s issues. He used his program to engage in race baiting, to scapegoat Latinos and immigrants, and promote the most outlandish conspiracy theories. And his abuse of the airwaves – not to mention journalistic standards – resulted in a campaign by civil rights groups that called for him to be ousted.
Dobbs used his position at a major cable network to legitimize claims that President Obama is not a citizen. On July 15, 2009, he questioned the validity of President Obama’s birth certificate, and claimed the President did not disclose the “original document.” Further, on his radio show, Dobbs continued to question the President’s fitness for office, and even joked that Obama could be “undocumented.” He responded to his critics by calling them “limp-minded, lily-livered lefties.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center has noted, the Obama “birther” conspiracy theory was first advanced by an avowed anti-Semite, and was spread by extremist groups who could not accept the election of a black president.
But Lou Dobbs’ signature issue has been illegal immigration. He falsely reported on the prevalence of leprosy and its link to undocumented aliens, and stood by the erroneous claim that there were 7,000 cases of leprosy in the U.S. over a three-year period (in reality, they occurred over a 30-year period). In addition, Dobbs falsely reported that one-third of federal prisoners were “illegal aliens.”
Dobbs has stoked the fires of anti-immigrant sentiment by promoting conspiracy theories, including “la reconquista”, the myth that Mexico plans to reconquer the American Southwest. Moreover, Dobbs broadcasted his radio show from an anti-immigration event held by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a white supremacist hate group that supports eugenics.
In response, a coalition of civil rights, media watchdog and immigration advocacy groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Council of La Raza, Presente,” Media Matters for America”:http://mediamatters.org/, and others called on CNN to remove Dobbs from the airwaves. The “Drop Dobbs” and “Basta Dobbs” campaigns prevailed (basta means “enough” in Spanish), a testament to the effectiveness of grassroots organizing.
Clearly, Dobbs posed a problem for CNN. His racist invective offended many, and clashed with a network that wanted to appeal to communities of color with their “Black In America” and “Latino In America” series. But the implications of the Lou Dobbs resignation are even larger than that. News organizations cannot tout their journalistic professionalism as they enable intolerant individuals that sow the seeds of hate, and yell “fire!” in a crowded room. And they cannot claim they are legitimate when their commentators and anchors tell outright lies.
Fox News’ Glenn Beck should take note.