¡Basta, Lou!

Leading Latino organizations have joined forces against our favorite pundit, Lou Dobbs. The DropDobbs.com campaign, sponsored by fifteen groups including the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Voto Latino, urges Latinos to sign an online petition that will be sent to advertisers asking them to pull advertising from CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. But just when things were getting interesting, Dobbs up and quit!

According to DropDobbs.com: “Over the years, Lou Dobbs has consistently used his CNN platform to spread hatred and fear. He played a critical role in skewing the immigration reform debate in 2006, leading to the derailment of that effort, and his obsession with the issue of immigration and with defeating immigration reform continues unabated.”

Dobbs has been criticized for his one-sided reporting on immigration, having invited guests like Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, a modern-day vigilante group whose members spend their free time patrolling the U.S.-Mexico Border, to speak on the show. Many have taken him to task for quoting dubious statistics without attribution, showing misleading images of dangerous-looking men scaling the border fence, and repeatedly using the term “illegal aliens.” Immigrant advocates consider this label dehumanizing, with the potential to encourage retaliation.

“Dobbs has promoted the work of hate groups, spread racially charged conspiracy theories, railed against ‘ethnocentric special interests,’ and accused the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) of being sympathetic to ‘Mexico’s export of drugs and illegal aliens,’” asserts the organization’s website.

Seeking to check irresponsible reporting, a similar protest was launched by ColorofChange.org against conservative commentator Glenn Beck on Fox, for calling President Obama a racist. This campaign has proved effective with more than seventeen advertisers dropping the show including GMAC Financial Services, ConAgra Foods, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, Geico, Sanofi Adventis, Roche, Radio Shack, Men’s Wearhouse, Lawyers.com, and Sargento.

In their defense, both Beck and Dobbs cite the First Amendment and their right to free speech, but others argue that to abuse that right is to lose the chance to profit by it. “After all, we have freedom of speech in this country---and that goes for advertisers too. However, being associated with that kind of free speech may not be good for their business,” writes Peter Cohen of Daily Finance. CNN has declined to comment.

Dobbs postures as the sole voice of accurate reporting on immigration and its negative economic impact, yet he’s been cited for his lack of fact checking and inaccurateness on more than one occasion. According to Wendy Feliz Sefsaf of the Immigration Policy Center, a non-partisan division of the American Immigration Law Foundation: “Most studies claiming to calculate the net “costs” of immigration focus exclusively on costs of services not the economic contributions over a lifetime from immigrants, legal and illegal. More intellectually honest studies have found that immigrants use relatively few federal or state public-benefit programs and are a net fiscal benefit to the U.S. economy.”

Leaning far right in his quest for ratings, Dobbs recently cited the “birther movement” which insists that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. The theory has been discredited repeatedly and supposed birth certificates alleging that the president was born in Africa, have been declared fakes.

When it comes to Dobbs’ outlandish claims against the Latino community, the list is long and many examples are posted at DropDobbs.com. For example, on the March 31, 2006, edition of his television show, Dobbs introduced a report by Christine Romans by stating, “There are some Mexican citizens and some Mexican-Americans who want to see California, New Mexico and other parts of the southwestern United States given over to Mexico. These groups call it the reconquista.”

On his May 26, 2009, radio show, Dobbs said that Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court was “pure, pure, absolute pandering to Hispanics and … filling in the box on one more minority who is actually … a majority, and that is women.” Dobbs went on to suggest that Sotomayor’s comments about a “wise Latina” judge were “racist.”

“Our decision to join this campaign was made after almost two years of ultimately unfruitful discussions with CNN about Dobbs,” explains Lisa Navarette, vice president of NCLR, one of Dobbs’ favorite piñatas. “We are not asking for CNN to drop Dobbs’ program. He has every right to broadcast. On the other hand, we and others have every right to challenge Dobbs and CNN on their coverage of our community.”

Announced on the air, Dobbs’ departure was a pleasant surprise to Latinos. But according to the New York Times, he had been given an ultimatum several months ago by CNN’s president Jonathan Klein, of either toning down his vitriol or leaving the network. Have we seen the last of him? Not likely. As a parting shot, Dobbs declared he would continue to participate in the “national conversation.”