An article in the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario La Prensa today notes that the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) has accepted CNN host Lou Dobbs as a national lifetime member. A lifetime membership costs $1,000; Dobbs donated $5,000. NAHJ president Rafael Olmeda tried to justify Dobbs’s membership:
“We cannot pretend that illegal immigration is not part of the story. Lou Dobbs, in my opinion, tells this story in an incomplete, not constructive, way. But he has the right to disagree with me,” reaffirmed Olmeda in writing after a 36-minute conversation on Friday afternoon. (trans.)
Dobbs’s reports are more than just “incomplete” and “not constructive.” They often contain inaccurate, biased, and misleading information.
Last night, CBS’s 60 Minutes caught Dobbs in one of these lies. Following “a report on illegals carrying diseases into the U.S.,” his show reported that there were 7,000 cases of leprosy in the United States in the last three years. CBS found out that there were actually 7,000 cases in the past 30 years, and “nobody knows how many of those cases involve illegal immigrants.” When host Lesley Stahl confronted him on this error, Dobbs simply replied, “If we reported it, it’s a fact.” Watch it:
Last year, the NAHJ put out a statement condemning the phrase “illegal immigrant,” noting it “can often be used pejoratively in common parlance and can pack a powerful emotional wallop for those on the receiving end.” Dobbs continues to use that term.
STAHL: Well, here’s what they say about you. That you distort the figures, that you exaggerate, and you aim to inflame just to get ratings.
DOBBS: Oh, really?
STAHL: Yes, really.
DOBBS: That’s fascinating, because what I can’t understand is why other journalists would not take on the issues of free trade, illegal immigration, outsourcing, all of these rather sexy topics… (CROSSTALK)
STAHL: I’ll tell — I’ll tell you why.
DOBBS: … which I’ve been covering for years.
STAHL: Reporters don’t take on issues, reporters report issues, and there’s a big difference there.
Do you think you’re a journalist?
DOBBS: Absolutely. I may be an advocacy journalist, but I’m a journalist.
STAHL (voice-over): One of the issues he tackles relentlessly is illegal immigration. And on that, his critics say, his advocacy can get in the way of the facts.
DOBBS: Tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria?
STAHL: Following a report on illegals carrying diseases into the U.S., one of the correspondents on his show, Christine Romans, told Dobbs that there have been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the U.S. in the past three years.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leprosy. In this country.
STAHL: We checked that and found a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying 7,000 is the number of leprosy cases over the last 30 years, not the past three. And nobody knows how many of those cases involve illegal immigrants.
(on camera): Now we went to try and check that number — 7,000. We can’t.
DOBBS: Well, I can tell you this. If we reported it, it’s a fact.
STAHL: You can’t tell me that. You did report it.
DOBBS: Well no, I just did.
STAHL: How can you guarantee that to me?
DOBBS: Because I’m the managing editor. And that’s the way we do business. We don’t make up numbers, Lesley, do we?
STAHL: I’m sitting here saying to myself, this man runs a news show?
L. DOBBS: I do.
STAHL: And you can just tell me you don’t like the president. Whoo.
L. DOBBS: I, matter of fact, insist that the audience know where I come from.
STAHL: What about fair and balanced?
L. DOBBS: I’ve never, Lesley, found the truth to be fair and balanced. I’ve found it to be…
STAHL: But, that’s — but wait, what’s the definition of journalism? That — that’s in there. That has to be part of what a journalist is, is fair and balanced.
L. DOBBS: I truly believe there’s a non-partisan independent reality…
STAHL: But it’s your reality.
L. DOBBS: It is my reality.
STAHL: But it’s not the reality.
L. DOBBS: Well, how so?