The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Learning the Law: A Lesson for Lou Dobbs

By Mark Potok on December 12, 2007 - 11:15 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Media Extremism

Lou Dobbs was at it again last night, unleashing a foaming-mouth attack on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which the CNN host variously described as “left wing,” “liberal,” “pitiful,” “an absolute disgrace,” and a “socio-ethnic Lou Dobbscentric special interest” group with an “open borders agenda.” Dobbs was livid because a short, just-released story in the SPLC’s Intelligence Report — about two Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and José Compean, now serving 11- and 12-year prison terms for shooting an unarmed border crosser and then covering up evidence and filing false official reports — highlighted and criticized Dobbs’ glorification of the pair.

Repeatedly promoting his upcoming segment last night, Dobbs said he’d have a thing or two to say about the SPLC’s “concept of law and justice” and added that the SPLC “doesn’t understand the concept of justice and presumption of innocence.” “[I]n this country,” Dobbs sputtered once he finally got to his segment, “there is a nativist tradition that says people are presumed innocent until proved guilty. What the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t seem to understand is that in this country, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, not the defendants.”

Well, yes. But isn’t that, umm, before conviction?

“Dobbs just doesn’t get it,” said Richard Cohen, president of the SPLC and, unlike Dobbs, an actual lawyer. “The presumption of innocence applies throughout the trial process, but not after a jury has rendered a guilty verdict. Dobbs can presume Ramos and Compean to be innocent all he wants. But in the eyes of the law, they’re guilty because they’ve been tried and convicted.”

Not that there’s much to suggest that they shouldn’t have been. As pointed out in an excellent and exhaustive examination of the case printed last September in, there is virtually nothing substantial to back up the assertion that Ramos and Compean were unjustly convicted — aside, that is, from the narrative of the events dreamed up by the far right. In the words of, this right-wing narrative was “cobbled together from speculation, rumors, misstatements of fact and various unproven assertions cherry-picked from the case the defense presented at trial.” also noted Dobbs’ preeminent role in promoting this apparent fairy tale.

Of course, it’s always possible the agents will prevail on appeal. Certainly, many right-wing politicians and pundits think they should. But for now, the jury has spoken. And so have a whole series of journalists a lot more serious than Dobbs., a relatively liberal online magazine, was hardly alone in its picture of the case. Texas Monthly, a prestigious regional magazine, ran a similarly exhaustive piece that painted a similar picture of the facts. The magazine also criticized Dobbs’ role, noting that, as of late August, he had promoted the case of what he called “these two outstanding Border Patrol agents” at least 131 times on his show. The Wall Street Journal editorially denounced Dobbs’ “pseudo-reporting” on the case. Even Bill O’Reilly, hardly a bleeding-heart liberal, reminded viewers of his Fox News Channel show that the agents had “shot the guy in the butt when he was running away.” (The victim was badly injured but was able to flee back to Mexico.) As The Houston Chronicle asked in an editorial of those who promote the two agents’ claims: “Why have they chosen to make deceitful law enforcement officers their darlings?”

But it was the prosecutor Johnny Sutton, a highly conservative Texas lawyer who worked for President Bush in Texas and Washington, who may have said it best in a comment to Texas Monthly. “What makes America great is the rule of law,” Sutton said. “It applies to everyone, no matter how powerful and important they may be.”

  • C Dunn

    Lou Dobbs is absolutely correct about the statistics of the impact “illegal immigration” has on the US taxpayers. California’s bill for services provided to ‘undocumented gate crashers’ is more than outrageous. There are more people that pay taxes that are now moving out of California, and more people that do not pay taxes moving into California. These are illegals from Mexico, Central America and South America whot are drawn to California not just for so-called jobs that Americans won’t take, but to the public services that are provided.

    When groups such as “La Raza” claim Lou Dobbs is promoting ‘hate speech’ on his Lou Dobbs Tonight broadcasts do not know what they are talking about. La Raza has been known for attacking US Mexican – Americans who speak out against illegal immigration. I have seen these incidents happen at their so-called ‘Day without Latinos’ demonstrations.

  • A Reader

    Here is an excerpt (a link below) that explains it all:

    “So, here comes thee reason why should you consider voting for Lou Dobbs should he run: Lou will not betray us like many before him did and many, most likely, will. For me, that’s the most important qualification for the next president of the U.S.”

    from “Why Should You Consider Voting For Lou If He Runs?”, by Mark Andrew Dwyer

  • ken pope

    SPLC reports: “now serving 11- and 12-year prison terms for shooting an unarmed border crosser and then covering up evidence and filing false official reports.”

    The (illegal) “border crosser” is a professional drug runner, oh, oops, did we forget to mention that? After this incident he was caught running Marijuana over the border AGAIN, something the prosecution (yes, a political appointee of Bush [Bush supports amnesty and monied interests to continue exploitation of slave labor]) and the prosecution withheld this knowledge from the jury. No, I’m not a lawyer (a positive in this trial) but I have to believe this knowledge would have helped the defendants who are defending our border while being undermined by our congress and president. This is not about law, it’s about politics and money. Free these victims who are caught in political crosshairs.

    “My neighbor looks like he’s straight out of Michoacan, but his family has been on this side of the border for generations. They’ve been here longer than the border. Now he gets insulted in the hardware store by these minuteman types.”

    Our apologees. Truly. I suspect the reason is attributable to the flood of Mexican illegal aliens who are impacting US culture. Your neighbor is a victim of backlash, unfair but understandable. My dream is that I wake up tomorrow, realize the illegals invasion was just a nightmare, and everyone is living in their home country; that Americans are dealing with our issues, such as Bush and his illegal war.

    Lou Dobbs is a healthy reaction to forces, foreign and domestic, who want our immigration laws to be set by foreign governments. He is attacked because he is a thorn in the side of big business who uses cheap, slave labor that is subsidized by US taxpayers through healthcare, education, and other social services at the expense of the American worker. Go Lou!

  • Desert Rat

    Mike, you’re reacting, not reading, which is what Lou wants you to do. I didn’t say Lou wasn’t against NAFTA. I said instead of instilling his very large audience with rational thought and maybe having a positive influence, he chooses hysteria. I guess common sense policy discussions don’t make for good TV.

    My neighbor looks like he’s straight out of Michoacan, but his family has been on this side of the border for generations. They’ve been here longer than the border. Now he gets insulted in the hardware store by these minuteman types. At a recent soccer game, a parent from the opposing team said it was unfair for her kids to play in the same league as these “Mexican kids” who instead of going to elementary school, spent all those years playing soccer everyday. I know all those kids, and none of them were born in Mexico. None of their parents were born in Mexico.

    Dobbs cultivates this ridiculous nonsense. He may not intend to, but that’s the consequence.

  • Mike

    Hey Rat it shows you don’t watch Dobbs or you would know he has for years put down NAFTA CAFTA and SHAFTA. Here is a idea buy his book.

  • Brian

    yeah..Justice System..? O.J was innocent,,,,Rodney King attacked the police and got $10 million. And Poor Randy Weaver had his wife and child shot in the back, and got 3 million. Lou Dobbs for President and Pat Buchanan for V.P.

  • Desert Rat

    Lou Dobbs uses the frustration of the middle class (and the rage of idiots like Brian above) to his own benefit. There’s nothing novel about that, especially in American politics. The danger of Dobbs’ method is that it creates a lot of collateral damage.

    He could use his high visibility to start a rational discussion about why NAFTA is bad policy – it moves US factory jobs south of the border, it derails the agrarian economies of Mexican villages, etc.

    But instead he takes the easier path and creates hysteria – “Mexicans have leprosy!” “Mexicans want to take over the Southwest!”

    That hysteria has a consequence.

  • Brian

    There are such double standards in the Justice system its disgusting, blacks can sing about killing white children, nothing happens, if whites sang about killing blacks, they would go to jail! La Raza can talk about taking over the country. Okay, then make all civil service tests equal, best man for the job type,
    whoever scores highest gets the job……whoops, now im a RACIST… know what…who cares, i will not vote for obama because im black, whoops…there i go again, im a racist…guess what…Im African -American….and its wonderful, i love welfare, i love my back pocket, Black Card, thats better than Visa…hahaha

  • The Watchman

    Dobb’s antics are not surprising, pandering to white supremacists and xenophobes. It’s time to boycott Lou Dobb’s advertisers!

  • Robert Kelly

    Parker said,
    on December 14th, 2007 at 11:15 am

    “I’m writing my donation check to SPLC as we speak.”

    RK: Heh, heh, heh. Who’s speaking? Good man. Writing a check while he toils away on the keyboard. Hahaha.

    Don’t forget one for the Black Panthers, La Raza, and the Communist Party of America.

  • Wilco1

    Lou Dobbs is a worthy adversary? To whom?

  • Parker

    I’m writing my donation check to SPLC as we speak.

  • Zeugitai

    I long for the days when objectivity was the standard of journalists for their work. People like Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly have turned the news into professional wrestling; it has lost all credibility with me and a lot of other people, and does nothing more now than entertain a low brow public. Like the law for truth in advertising, there should be a law that separates entertainment from actual news, if there is any actual news still being presented in the U.S. I can’t find any on television. Like many others, I find it by skimming many Internet sources and comparing and contrasting. To my surprise, I’ve learned that many “reputable” news providers no longer deserve their good reputation.

  • Robert Kelly

    “What makes America great is the rule of law,” Sutton said. “It applies to everyone, no matter how powerful and important they may be.”

    RK: Yes, including US attorneys and wealthy leftist radicals who support non-citizens over citizens in this country, yet turn to the populace here to glean whatever they can in donations in order to pursue an open borders agenda.

    The sources of articles against those two border patrol agents cited above fabricated many things pertaining to the case. Not one had the facts correct, but because they adhere to the same radical agenda as the SPLC they are quoted irregardless of the truth. The two agents were railroaded. It’s not a matter of left wing/right wing. It’s a matter of justice, and the reason the leftist radicals at the SPLC refuse to accept that is because they value promoting their perverted ideology over and above their desire for justice. To the SPLC justice is whatever promotes their goals and aims.

    With such a forum as Lou Dobbs has to blast those who seek to manipulate and deceive, the SPLC is going to realize a severe drop in donations by lying about him, and he’s not so easily bullied as private citizens who have no forum to reveal the injustices out-of-control miscreants pursue against them. His show reaches literally millions every week, and he has the courage of a lion in uncovering the crimes and manipulations of those who would subvert their obligations to inform the public in favor of indoctrinating them.

    Hatred is the SPLC’s most valued product and they pursue it with gusto and vigor. Their Hitlarian techniques require that they repeat their lies often, believing that repetition alone will inculcate the belief they desire in their unsuspecting minions, supported with other fabrications or quotes from those who are of the same ilk as they are. They respond in a Pavlovian manner to anything that is politically correct stimuli by salivating politically correct dogma everytime their radical leftist agenda needs to be promoted or defended.

    Lou Dobbs is a worthy adversary. Here’s what he said:

    Lou Dobbs Tonight — CNN — December 11
    And the left wing liberal Southern Poverty Law Center, an activist group that pretends it is some kind of watchdog in this country is at it once again, distorting the truth to advance its agenda of socio-ethnocentric special interest and utter disregard for law and order in this country. This time, the Southern Poverty Law Center is targeting me again, and other supporters of the imprisoned former border patrol agents, Ramos and Compean, who are fighting against an outrageous miscarriage of justice.
    But the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t seem to want to pay attention to those rather inconvenient facts for their fund-raising efforts. If you support them, go for it. I think they are an absolute disgrace.

    And so do your millions of viewers, Lou, as well as literally millions more.

    I look for SPLC donations to trend downward in the coming months, and I’m glad of it. These evil people must be contained at all costs.

    Only an absolute fool would give them money.