Yesterday, former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs appeared on Univision’s Al Punto with Jorge Ramos. Throughout the interview, Ramos sought to hold Dobbs accountable for the misinformation about immigrants that he promoted on his show while it was still on the air. As he has done in a series of interviews since leaving CNN, Dobbs defiantly refused to admit to any factual inaccuracies or misleading reporting on his behalf. Quite the contrary, Dobbs lashed out at Ramos for dwelling on the past and accused him of spreading propaganda:
DOBBS: Why are you invested in seven years ago rather than the present or the future?
RAMOS: Because many of the things that you said —
DOBBS: — Why aren’t you interested in what I’m saying now? [...] You know those things. Why aren’t you talking about that aspect of what I’ve been saying? Why are you trying to carry out some sort of propagandist culdesac here. [...] I don’t see the point, I don’t see the point, you see…Please please listen to me Jorge please, please, please…You want to debate, I want to have a conversation, do you want to debate about something that matters?…I want to talk to Jorge Ramos, I don’t need you to be a mouthpiece for other points of views. I didn’t bring other points of views here to you, I bring you mine, bring me yours.
RAMOS: These are my questions.
However, for the most part, Ramos raised valid issues. Ramos confronted Dobbs about a report in which Dobbs claimed that immigrants are “clogging up the federal prison system,” which Ramos interpreted as a suggestion that undocumented immigrants “were increasing the crime rate.” Dobbs blasted Ramos for making an “interesting logical connection” and affirmed that, at the time, one-third, or 27 percent, of prison inmates were non-citizens. Yet Dobbs’ claim was debunked long ago by Justice Department figures which show that about 6 percent of the state and federal prison population are non-citizens. Dobbs also boasted to Ramos that, this past summer, he pledged never to refer to undocumented immigrants as “illegal aliens” ever again. He didn’t mention that just two months later he employed the term “illegal alien” while decrying the “Latinization” of the country.
To Dobbs credit, he did admit that he made in error in reporting that immigrants were responsible for 7,000 new cases of leprosy in the U.S. Ramos and Dobbs also spent an extended period of time arguing about whether there are 10.8 million or 20 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Though most studies show the figure is closer to the estimates Ramos cited — 10.8 to 12 million — in 2005, Bear Stearns analysts suggested that the number is closer to 20 million, as Dobbs maintained.
Nonetheless, Dobbs seems to miss the point that, for the millions of Latinos who were in some way affected by his slanderous reporting, the past matters a lot. It matters because Dobbs helped foster the xenophobic and isolationist instincts that fueled successful opposition to two immigration reform bills which contained provisions very similar to the solutions he now claims to support. It also matters because Dobbs’ “shrill anti-immigration reform commentaries” have been found to “correlate closely with the increase in hate crimes against Hispanics.”
Ramos informed Dobbs that he is probably “one of the most hated people within the Hispanic community.” Dobbs responded that that’s because the “Hispanic community doesn’t know me.” “Thanks to your efforts, they’re gonna get to know me,” Dobbs confidently told Ramos after having responded to most of Ramos’ questions with hostility and personal attacks towards one of the Latino community’s most revered reporters. Ramos also happens to be an eight-time Emmy Award winner and an immigrant from Mexico.