Southern Poverty Law Center Calls for CNN’s Lou Dobbs to be taken off the Air

Jul 24 2009 Published by under Featured News

The president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, J. Richard Cohen wrote a letter to CNN president Jonathon Klein calling for Lou Dobbs to be taken of the air for spreading racist conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Cohen wrote, “Respectable news organizations should not employ reporters willing to peddle racist conspiracy theories and false propaganda.”

Cohen began his letter, “As an important and respected news organization, CNN has a special responsibility to ensure the accuracy of its reporting. We have written to you before about our concern that Lou Dobbs repeatedly fails to live up to this standard in his reporting on immigration. Now, Mr. Dobbs is again trading in falsehoods and racist conspiracy theories, questioning President Obama’s American citizenship.”
Over the past couple of weeks Dobbs has slipped into full birther mode:

Cohen pointed out that the birther conspiracy originated on the radical racial right, “As he has in several other instances, Mr. Dobbs, in taking up the birthers’ claims, is adopting an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that originated on the radical racist right. As Gawker.com has reported, this particular conspiracy theory was first developed by an open anti-Semite and circulated by right-wing extremists who cannot accept the fact that a black man has been elected president of the United States. Among its adherents was neo-Nazi James von Brunn, the alleged murderer of a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., this June. Von Brunn had helped spread the birthers’ claims on the Internet and attacked the “dishonest & conspiratorial Media” for not taking them up.”

He also noted that this isn’t the first time that Dobbs has advanced racial conspiracy theories on his show, “This is not the first time Mr. Dobbs has pushed racist conspiracy theories or defamatory falsehoods about immigrants. We wrote you in 2007 to bring to your attention his utterly false claim that 7,000 new cases of leprosy had appeared in the United States in a recent three-year period, due at least in part to immigrants. (The real number, according to official statistics, was about 400. Mr. Dobbs took his spurious information from the late right-wing extremist, Madeleine Cosman.)…”

Cohen concluded with a call for CNN to take Dobbs off the air, “He has falsely claimed that “illegal aliens” fill one third of American prison and jail cells. And Mr. Dobbs has routinely disparaged, on CNN’s air, those who have had the integrity to point out the falsity of these and similar claims. Respectable news organizations should not employ reporters willing to peddle racist conspiracy theories and false propaganda. It’s time for CNN to remove Mr. Dobbs from the airwaves.”

CNN definitely has a Lou Dobbs problem. However, the network seems willing to hang on to him. CNN pointed out that it has nothing to with Dobbs’ radio show, and as a spokesperson told, TVNewser, “On CNN, Lou is an independent reporter who covers stories that people are talking about, and often showcases issues that aren’t being covered by the mainstream media.”

I don’t know how much credibility Lou Dobbs had left before he went birther, so I can’t imagine him damaging CNN more than he already has with his nightly anti-immigration rants. CNN is a struggling network that might view any ratings as good ratings, no matter where they come from.

Dobbs doesn’t win his time slot, but he doesn’t finish near the bottom of the ratings either, like CNN’s prime time lineup. It is a just a guess, but Dobbs isn’t going anywhere. The SPLC made a great argument, but this isn’t about journalistic integrity. It is about ratings and money, and CNN, like almost all television news networks is always looking for more of both.

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