Explaining the alarming rise in extremist group activity in 2009, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) pinned some blame on former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, Fox News host Glenn Beck, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK). Dobbs hit back at the group by referring to Potok as “paranoid.” ABC News reports:
Potok cited talk-show host Glenn Beck for stoking fears that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is running concentration camps, former CNN host Lou Dobbs for incurring fears about supposed Mexican plots to take over the southwestern U.S., Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., for making statements about secret political reeducation camps, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for referring to Obama “death panels” during the health care debate. Bachmann and Beck are also cited by name in the SPLC’s report, but Dobbs and Palin are not.
“These people help to bring completely groundless conspiracy theories from the margins into the mainstream,” said Potok. In a phone interview, Dobbs scoffed at the report. “It’s sad that Mr. Potok insists upon maintaining his paranoia, and I hope that he recovers.” “Beyond that, I have nothing to say about the man,” said Dobbs.
SPLC isn’t the only group that has accused Dobbs of fueling a rise in anti-immigrant hate. Last June, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund released a report that revealed a close correlation between the increasingly volatile immigration debate and a growing number of hate crimes against Latinos and “perceived immigrants.” The report specifically cited Dobbs’ “shrill anti-immigration reform commentaries.” When Dobbs was still on air, Media Matters wrote that Dobbs, along with Beck and Bill O’Reilly, served a “steady diet of fear, anger, and resentment on the topic of illegal immigration.” Dobbs was described as “the one most obsessed with the topic” and was accused of having “hosted some of the most radical immigration opponents, offering them a national platform to disseminate extremist views.” While campaigning in 2008, Obama himself accused Dobbs of “ginning things up” to such an extent that hate crimes against Latinos soared.
Dobbs’ fiery rhetoric has also been directed at opposing the Obama administration. Soon after his departure from CNN, Dobbs announced on his radio show that if health care reform comes close to passing, “we’re going to have to do something quite different” and advised his listeners to “protest physically and visibly in the streets.” Last year, Dobbs also dismissed a report released by the Department of Homeland Security warning about a rise in right-wing extremism as a document similar to those produced in China under Mao Zedong’s oppressive rule.