Friday, June 1, 2007

Truth, Fiction and Lou Dobbs

This New York Times article, Truth, Fiction and Lou Dobbs, is a must read. Lou Dobbs has presented himself as the immigration oracle, disparaging anyone who disagrees with him as factually inaccurate. Now, when his facts are in error, he circles the wagons and refuses to take responsibility. This is the problem when a true believer presents himself as a journalist. Whatever happened to journalistic standards like accuracy and objectivity?


The whole controversy involving Lou Dobbs and leprosy started with a “60 Minutes” segment a few weeks ago.

The segment was a profile of Mr. Dobbs, and while doing background research for it, a “60 Minutes” producer came across a 2005 news report from Mr. Dobbs’s CNN program on contagious diseases. In the report, one of Mr. Dobbs’s correspondents said there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in this country over the previous three years, far more than in the past.

When Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” sat down to interview Mr. Dobbs on camera, she mentioned the report and told him that there didn’t seem to be much evidence for it.

“Well, I can tell you this,” he replied. “If we reported it, it’s a fact.”

With that Orwellian chestnut, Mr. Dobbs escalated the leprosy dispute into a full-scale media brouhaha. The next night, back on his own program, the same CNN correspondent who had done the earlier report, Christine Romans, repeated the 7,000 number, and Mr. Dobbs added that, if anything, it was probably an underestimate. A week later, the Southern Poverty Law Center — the civil rights group that has long been critical of Mr. Dobbs — took out advertisements in The New York Times and USA Today demanding that CNN run a correction.

Finally, Mr. Dobbs played host to two top officials from the law center on his program, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” where he called their accusations outrageous and they called him wrong, unfair and “one of the most popular people on the white supremacist Web sites.”

Now don't get me wrong. I don't think Dobbs is evil incarnate, or that he's at the level of O'Reilly or Limbaugh. But, on the issue of immigration, he espouses view that harken back to know-nothing nativism. As a nation, we can't allow the important immigration debate to be framed by Dobbsian terms. What he just doesn't get, however, is that the immigration issue ain't about leprosy...

Here's more on the Dobbs School of Journalism: Dobbs responded to leprosy criticism by falsely suggesting he had admitted error

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