The following is a statement by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, about the upcoming CNN series “Latino in America,” scheduled to begin airing on October 22nd.
Last night, some of my colleagues at America’s Voice went to the Washington premier of CNN’s upcoming special, Latino in America. We’ve been waiting to see how this highly publicized series would handle one of the biggest menaces facing Latinos in America: CNN’s Lou Dobbs.
But, last night we heard from CNN executive Mark Nelson that the series doesn’t mention the role of the media in general nor the role of his network in particular in propagating myths about Latinos. Reportedly, he went on to suggest that the way to change views about Latinos was to have more Eva Longorias.
CNN must know that Dobbs is considered a major force in making life difficult for the Latino community. Just two weeks ago, Democracia Ahora released survey titled, “Latino Leaders and Their Opinions of CNN’s Lou Dobbs.” The report finds that an astounding 90% of Latino Leaders believe Dobbs makes it harder to be Latino in America.
America’s Voice, along with Media Matters, NDN, and Presente.org, has called on CNN to drop Dobbs from its lineup. The case against him is compelling. My colleague, Adam Luna, wrote about Dobbs’ extreme anti-immigrant background at Huffington Post:
Few individuals have done more to bring extremism and race-based hate speech into the mainstream than Lou Dobbs. The network that purports to be “the most trusted name in news” broadcasts his vitriol every weekday during primetime – sandwiched between Anderson Cooper, John King, Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash.
Watch just a couple of episodes and you’ll see how he throws around the term “criminal illegal aliens” with the spite and frequency of a mid-century Southern politician using the N-word. In Dobbs’ world, immigrants are disease ridden criminals who kill cops and are plotting for revolution. Bogus claims that immigrants are bringing a new wave of leprosy to America might be taken with a grain of salt on Fox – but on CNN, it’s news.
When it comes to the controversial issue of immigration reform, Dobbs is no ordinary commentator. Check out this key finding from a study conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center, “News Coverage of Immigration 2007,” which can be found here:
The news agenda on cable to some extent depends not only on the channel but also on the host of the program. Among all the cable talkers, the one who was most clearly devoted to the cause of immigration was CNN’s Lou Dobbs. While throughout the whole year immigration was the number one story at 22%, during [the Senate immigration debate] it skyrocketed to 43.1% of the time studied on Dobbs. Besides offering a timeline of the immigration bill debates within the Senate, Dobbs openly criticized the bill as an amnesty bill for illegal aliens in the country, pointed out how the bill would cost taxpayers a lot of money, and emphasized the need for better border security, which according to him was not a part of the proposed bill. He also was critical of George Bush, Ted Kennedy, Michael Chertoff, Lindsay Graham, Trent Lott and their stance on immigration. The night the immigration bill failed, Dobbs began his program with these words: “Tonight the crushing defeat for President Bush and the Senate’s Democratic leadership on amnesty, a glorious victory for the American people.”
“A glorious victory” for Dobbs was a crushing defeat for many Latino families – especially since in the aftermath of the bill’s demise, the Bush Administration – in a naked effort to pander to the nativists Dobbs stirs up on a daily basis – ramped up enforcement so much that most mixed-status families now live in daily fear of being stopped, questioned, detained, and permanently separated.
So, given the outsized role Dobbs has played in demonizing Latino immigrants as criminals and disease carriers and defeating reform that would benefit millions of Latinos in America, one would expect that a series hosted by Soledad O’Brien, a professional journalist with a reputation for fairness and integrity, would at least reference the nation’s chief immigrant-basher, no?
No. Was it intentional? Was O’Brien ordered to avoid this contentious intra-CNN issue? Is comity around the corridors of CNN more important than journalistic courage?
Truth is, when it comes to Latinos in America, Lou Dobbs is the elephant in the room. If the “Latino in America” series is to be considered credible, doesn’t the series have to deal with that fact? Moreover, isn’t it time for the serious journalists at CNN to stand up for the network’s brand and their own reputations? Isn’t it time for journalists to stand up to executives who sully the reputation of this once-great news network every time they put Lou Dobbs on the air?
Well, there’s still time. But is there hope? We’ll see when the series begins to air on October 22nd.