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

Reluctantly, Lou Dobbs Offers a Rare Apology for Nativist Rhetoric

By Mark Potok on March 19, 2009 - 3:39 pm, Posted in Media Extremism

Question: What’s the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce?

A)    An organization that seeks “to foster Hispanic economic development and to create a sustainable prosperity for the benefit of American society.”
B)    An organization that “is interested in … Mexico’s export of drugs and illegal aliens to the United States.”

If you chose a), chances are you’re a perfectly sensible person with a reasonable familiarity with the issues and organizations of the day. After all, the Hispanic Chamber is well known as a relatively conservative, pro-business organization that represents the interests of more than 2.5 million Hispanic-owned businesses.

If you chose b), you’re almost certainly Lou Dobbs, the insult-spewing Latino-basher who hosts CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” five times a week.

Dobbs, of course, is known for regularly pushing defamatory falsehoods about undocumented immigrants — they fill one third of American prison and jail cells, they’re part of a secret Mexican plan to “reconquer” the American Southwest, they are largely responsible for a spate of 7,000 recent leprosy cases… Even when Dobbs isn’t hosting his own show, his fill-in hosts spew such racist propaganda as the lie about subprime housing loans going to 5 million “illegal aliens.”

But Dobbs may have outdone himself on March 10, when he launched into a furious tirade against President Barack Obama, who earlier that day gave a major speech on education reform from the Hispanic Chamber’s Washington, D.C., offices.

“I don’t know what’s happened to this White House, but the wheels appear to have come completely off here over the last several days,” Dobbs fulminated. “Making a decision to talk about a national initiative on education from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which is effectively an organization that is interested in the export of American capital and production to Mexico and Mexico’s export of drugs and illegal aliens to the United States. This is crazy stuff.”

And how. So much so, in fact, that this Tuesday the man who has in the past utterly refused to retract false allegations, actually offered up a “correction.”

It wasn’t known if that was prompted by his CNN overlords, the angry demands for a retraction from the Hispanic Chamber, or his own guilty conscience — but we’re betting it wasn’t the latter. Even after “60 Minutes,” The New York Times, the Columbia Journalism Review and many other serious media outlets pointed out Dobbs’ pushing of spurious allegations infamously linking immigrants to a resurgence of leprosy — effectively mocking his claim to be a “journalist” — the CNN host refused to retract or correct his falsehoods.

The idea that the Hispanic Chamber wanted to aid the smuggling of drugs and undocumented workers into the United States left dropped jaws around the nation. The Washington Independent referred to the talk show host as “CNN’s immigrant attack dog Lou Dobbs.” The Houston Chronicle noted soberly that many Americans view Lou Dobbs as “just an anti-immigrant blowhard.” Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant America’s Voice group, said he knew the chamber well as an organization of “hardworking business owners” who are “patriotic Americans.” “Apparently,” Sharry added, “when Lou saw the word ‘Hispanic’ in the name of the organization hosting the event, he went loco.”

This Tuesday, with his teeth metaphorically gritted, Dobbs spat out an apology of sorts — although only after a furious attack on Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who had suggested that gun control in America could help Mexico disarm its own drug cartels. “What in the world,” Dobbs fumed, was Durbin doing “speaking so irresponsibly? … I find it astonishing.”

Then he got to the “apology”:

“I want to make a correction to something I said last week. I made a mistake,” he said. “I believe any open-borders policy does facilitate not only illegal immigration but also the trafficking of massive amounts of illicit drugs. I, of course, do not believe that the chamber supports or condones either drug or human trafficking. My apologies to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And I hope that they will forgive me for misspeaking.”

And with that it was back to the Lou Dobbs show we’ve all come to appreciate. Next up on the show: Dobbs’ take on a blog that has “many left-leaning reporters as members” and “operates in secrecy.”

Don’t worry, folks. Lou’s on the case.

  • Jonathan

    Dear Irv,

    I presume you must be joking about Mexico. Mexico is strict with their illegal aliens. I wish the USA would mirror the Mexican laws.

    Foreigners are restricted in owning land in Mexico:
    “The most important restriction is contained in Article 27 of the constitution which states “that foreigners cannot own property within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of the border and 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the coastline.”

    Poor, oppressed “minorities” who live in the USA! We have a poor, oppressed Black President, a billionaire Oprah, etc. Non-Whites should thank Whites everyday for all the blessing they’ve given to non-Whites. The ingratitude is disgusting!

    You: “I just don’t know why whites are so biased and prejudiced. Probably it’s because of genes.”

    Me: I just don’t know why non-Whites are so ungrateful, envy the societies that Whites build and that there are so many who want to migrate to White lands to be “oppressed”. It is probably genetic.

  • Cheyenne

    swaneagle harijan said,

    “Solutions include returning lands to the Mexican people..”

    Now this is exactly the sort of uneducated statement that fuels the fire of the illegal alien debate.
    Just what lands do you think are supposed to be “returned” to Mexican people?
    What US lands?
    No place called Mexico existed before the Spanish got here from Europe.
    The Spanish stole land in what is now the US Southwest, land that did NOT “belong” to Mexico, or any Mexican people, because no place called Mexico existed, and no people called Mexican existed before they got here.
    That land was the land of our US Native American Indian tribes, and NONE of our tribes were ever “Mexican people”. Not before the Spanish came from Europe, not during the 300 years that the Spanish occupied our tribal lands, and not after Mexico stole our lands this side of the existing US/Mex border in 1821, when Mexico became a sovereign nation. Mexico claimed to own our tribal lands for a short 27 years, until Mexico sold the lands of our US Southwest tribes to the United States of America in 1848.
    Mexico has no claim on the land of the US Southwest, no more than Spain or France or England has in any US lands.
    How much gets “returned to Spain” in your grand “reconquesta”? Uh…. would that be ALL of the US southwest? Spain is still a nation in Europe.
    What about our U.S. tribes? We are still here.

    Get over that reconquesta garbage. It’s never going to happen. Do you not understand that this reconquesta rhetoric, and the so-called “aztlan” lie is one of the major instigators of negative response in the illegal immigration debate? It is also the insanity espoused from the racist raza groups, and yes, even though the SPLC does not like to admit it, or want to admit it, there are racist Hispanic groups in the United States, with an agenda that ranges from anarchy to take-over of any number of states of this nation.
    This is exactly what the problem is with many of the racist raza groups, and many of the so-called “advocacy” and “rights” for illegal aliens, blurring too many lines, including distinguishing the difference between legal immigrants and illegal aliens, and calling Native Mexican Indians, and Mestizo, “indigenous” to the United States, when they are NOT.

    Spain was here for 300 years before Mexico was for 27 years, and our tribes were here for countless generations before the Spanish came from Europe. The Southwest US has been USA for 150 years.
    Who was first? Who was second? Who was longest? Who was last? Who is now? Mexico loses on all fronts.

    Stop promoting the propaganda of the reconquestas, swaneagle, because it is based on a lot of lies, throws a lot of fuel on an already over-hot fire, and makes those of you who promote this “take-over” agenda look like uneducated amateurs.
    Illegal aliens have absolutely nothing to do with that reconquesta garbage.
    Illegal aliens come from every nation on earth, not just Mexico.

  • Steve

    Irv, why do you think the “militia movement” has been awoken again? Could it be that taxation without representation has again raised it’s ugly head in the Obama administration? Could it be because the Obama administration is attempting to raise a Civiian Corp? Shred the Constitution, stop the freedom of speech, kill our monetary system and adopt a global one, favors illegal aliens over American citizens, wants to take over private companies at his whim? Need I say more? If anyone is to blame for a resurgence of militias, if there actually is one, it’s Obama and his oppressive agenda. By the way, the state of Missouri has discredited the MIAC report, they say it should never have been sent to their officers!

  • Irv

    “Something evil is a foot. It’s called socialism.”

    Well, what I’m referring to is the resurgence of the militia movement.

    Make no mistake, in the mid nineties they numbered in the millions, counting supporters, and this country almost had a civil war.

    What I’m concerned about is that with all the tea parties going on in such huge numbers, and even more conservative commentators in the media now, the momentum is building once again, and the police will be no match for these people, because they will be even more numerous this time around, and they will have the advantage of garnering support from the tens of millions of people out of work, and “tea party” types. They don’t care if assault weapons are banned, because they are already armed to the teeth, so if assault weapons are banned we won’t be able to buy anything worthwhile to defend ourselves with.

    Don’t say that the military can stop them either, because they outnumber them by a factor of at least ten to one, and most of our military forces are overseas fighting illegal wars.

    I’ve got a hunch we just might be living one of the most important times in history right now, which will be reported in the years afterwards as, “When America was one nation.”

    We’re on the brink, and I don’t like it. If anybody thinks I’m a conspiracy theorist he doesn’t understand just what a precarious position we are in.

  • Irv

    “I used to feel that affirmative action, race/ethnicity based groups were wrong in this “land of opportunity”. I now realize that it was only my whiteness and the attached priviledge that allowed me to ignore the vast inequalities and injustices of our nation.”

    I’m really glad to hear a white say something like that, because if a white went to Mexico he would have all the benefits a citizen there receives, plus he would get a monthly social check until he could get established with a paying job. He could buy land if he wanted to. He could vote. Everything is open and free, and there’s no discrimination at all.

    No one would have to migrate to this country if whites hadn’t stolen their national treasures. They would be far more advanced and wealthier than this country.

    I just don’t know why whites are so biased and prejudiced. Probably it’s because of genes.

    Every white on this board should apologize daily to the many non-whites in this society for the treachery and evil they perpetrate on them daily. It’s really disgusting.

    Thank the Tao that the universal consciousness has given us the SPLC.

  • Carter

    Your “Whiteness” hasn’t got anything to do with it. If you are even being serious at all, saying that your lack of melanin in your skin has any impact on the economic down-turns & issues of the social impact of poverty & educational inequities shows a bit of lack of imagination (let alone fact).
    “White” people have nothing to feel guilt over in this day & age.

  • M in TN

    I actually hope that Dobbs continues to make more and more outrageous comments. Maybe then people will be shocked out of their willingness to blame all of America’s problems (the economy, crime, etc) on an outside source. These folks need a wake up call.

    I used to feel that affirmative action, race/ethnicity based groups were wrong in this “land of opportunity”. I now realize that it was only my whiteness and the attached priviledge that allowed me to ignore the vast inequalities and injustices of our nation.

    It is not ok to ignore the hate that is bubbling up in our media and communities.

  • swaneagle harijan

    Ignorance continues to dominate attitudes towards so called “illegal” immigration. People are so undereducated when it comes to NAFTA and other corporate backed profiteering that strips people of their land and livelihood, whether it’s Mexico or Haiti, Guatemala or Colombia. Starvation is a reality that is a direct result of disruption of customary ways of living that privileged dominators don’t want to bother looking at. Dobbs is profiting from reinforcing such ignorance. Hate is profitable. Ask those who survived Hitler.

  • Jonathan

    I don’t know about the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but the general U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a extremist proponent of illegal immigration – they fought to kill the E-Verify system. I don’t think Mr. Dobbs should apologize as the Hispanic C of C is probably mixed up in this mischief too.

    Maybe the Chamber of Commerce should apologize for Chandra Levy’s murder by an illegal alien?

    I can’t believe that there are so many extremists in this country coddling illegal aliens!!!

  • JBP

    THE SPLC is playing right into this, turning Americans against Americans but too many of you are too young and too blind to see it.

    Taking anything the SPLC says as truth is just plain ignorant. I’m not white, I’m not a supremacist or a racist. I’m an American, proud of it, will not apologize for it and no I have no control over what the crooks in Washington, DC are doing to this country, but am hoping for a peaceful and Democratic solution to these problems.

    Too many of you are being led to believe and allowing yourselves to be brainwashed by organizations such as the SPLC that the USA is “bad” and you should be ashamed of being an American. So now, Americans who are tired of the bashing of our country, customs, culture and language and the fact that illegal immigration by hordes of poor people and criminals from Mexico has been allowed to take place are being labeled, “domestic terrorists” for believing in the principals of law, order and sovereignty. You’re being taught to turn your backs on the very priniciples that made this country great and the document that assured its greatness and assured opportunities for people who wanted to come here, assimilate, play by the rules and become AMERICANS. I feel sorry for the people that are doing this and allowing it to be done and the people at the SPLC are a big part of this!

  • Sergi


    Dobbs is a lunatic. Thanks for the good work SPLC.

  • Don Quixote

    JBP writes: “Lou Dobbs shines a spotlight upon people who do not play by the rules that others are made to play by and it obviously doesn’t go over well with certain people who have been used to getting away with illegal activities…”

    You mean those native-born, white male, uber-rich citizens who are raping and pillaging our national treasure as we speak? You know, those guys that show up for their Trillions in welfare in learjets, limos and the best Armani has to offer? Of course, fixating on fellow citizens who look like you doesn’t exactly bring in the ratings, does it? It’s a hell of a lot easier and more fun (and more lucrative if you’re a cable news “journatainer”) to obsess over scapegoating poor brown people. Like shooting fish in a barrel!

    Like I said, Dobbs is a bad actor who plays the angry white male on TV. His followers are mostly of the same ilk. His entertaining little comedy routine is to pretend that he and his sheep like you are all being victimized by all those mean racist special interest racial groups who advocate for the rights of poor disenfranchised minorities.

    Minorities identify and organize themselves out of self defense. Just as soon as we reach that utopian color blind society you describe, I’m sure all these groups will disband. Disbanding now would be putting the cart before the horse, now wouldn’t it?

    Btw, “Hispanic” is not a racial category. Hispanics are of multiple races; about half are “white”, and millions are of mixed races. Since this premise is the foundation of your argument, it being bogus pretty much makes your whole argument bogus.

  • George Sidoti

    If you take Lou Dobbs seriously, I have a bridge I would like to sell to you. He is an entertainer and not a news reporter. Dobbs should have his own late night comedy program…”From the late night studio’s in California—Heeeeeeeere’s Lou!”

  • swaneagle harijan

    Sadly, those who propel hate have far more voice than those who are at the receiving end. Scapegoating has been very useful in the past when fascism is ruling the roost. We have a long way to go to educate people effectively about the truth of free trade and the part drugs play in profits for pharmacuetical companies who provided tons of ephedrine to meth Mexican cartels; US gun manufacturers not to mention the hired assassins, Los Zetas, mutinous (US trained and backed) Mexican army troops many of whom are graduates of the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA. The US is mired in this mess and it’s furthering the violence will help no one. US Troops on the border or ibn Mexico lead us all to never ending doom. Peace, Justice and Love…..

    Solutions include returning lands to the Mexican people, legalizing marijuana, stopping the production of weapons at the source, educating people widely about the dangers of hard drugs and pulling out cheap US genetically modified corn so the farmers can reclaim their livelihood and supporting people making a decent living without cops killing and raping people. The atrocities in Atenco ( where 40 flower vendors were arrested and raped in 2007)were pushed by Walmart’s opposition to customary street vendors.

    Dangerous stereotypes are well funded and widely dispersed on tv, radio and the internet. Dobbs is right up the white supremacist alley. It is shameful and fully supported while those who struggle for justice are almost completely silenced. Obama is a continuation of the problem. It is not the military who will solve these pressing issues, but love, peace, education, decent work and healthy community. Rape and pillage profit continue and we must see that it ceases.

  • Steve

    The report you mentioned is the MIAC (Missouri Information Analysis Center) Strategic Report: The Modern Militia Movement (2/20/09).
    Your right, if you believe in free speech, the Constitution, and the Sovereignty of the United States of America, if you believe ILLEGAL Immigration is a bad thing, you aren’t going to like it! Because if you believe in any of those things you can be and probably will be labeled a “Domestic Terrorist”. If you are a conservative , you will be labeled a “rightwing extremist”. If you have a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag you better get rid of it. Even though it was designed by an American Patriot during the Revolutionary War, it is considered to be a positive sign the person who has it now is a “domestic terrorist”.
    Something evil is a foot. It’s called socialism.

    I am neither a Republican or a Democrat, but I am an American. This profiling of Americans is wrong!

  • JBP

    Why does the SPLC insist on twisiting the truth to make themselves appear legitimate and to trash the truth that reporters such as Dobbs puts out into the spotlight?

    It is obvious that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce encourages and supports illegal immigration from Mexico. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is constantly seeking to provide these specific illegal aliens with special advantages and privileges over immigrants from other countries who come to the USA legally and legitimately following all the rules and obeying the laws and sovereignty of the USA.

    Any group that chooses to segregate itself from other Americans, based on race is a racist entity. America has stepped back in time allowing groups like this to be recognized as legal.

    The SPLC is into its own games and agendas by doing its part in trying to divide this country even further, by playing word games, such as referring to illegal aliens and “immigrants.” They are criminals breaking the immigration laws of a sovereign nation and deserve to be treated as such.

    Another play on words trying create another great divide is the SPLC pushing to make “Nativist” appear to be something bad. Categorizing Americans that want to preserve their nation’s heritage, language and customs as “Nativists.” There’s nothing wrong with that.

    Illegal immigrants from Mexico have NO RIGHT to come here and demand that we speak, teach and learn Spanish just to accomodate them and their arrogance. If they did this in any other country they would be laughed at and quickly deported. They won’t change their official language, society and culture in Mexico to accomadate Americans and why should they?

    The SPLC needs to stick with pointing out Skin Heads and Hispanic Gangbangers who kill Blacks for just being Black and stop bashing American citizens and bashing the policies and laws of the greatest country on the planet whose forefathers fought and died to give the SPLC the freedom to be what it is.

    All race based entities whether it be the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Caucus, the Muslim Caucus, The Black Caucus have no place in a society that was once bent on becoming an homongenous society where all races and religions could live and work together on a level playing field, judging a person by their character, integrity and skills rather than giving specific people special privileges based on the color of their skin or their illegal immigration status.

    Lou Dobbs shines a spotlight upon people who do not play by the rules that others are made to play by and it obviously doesn’t go over well with certain people who have been used to getting away with illegal activities for so long because no one was paying attention to them until after September 11, 2001.

  • Don Quixote

    The Lou Dobbs Show is theater of the absurd. He’s the lead performer on the stage and a really bad actor at that. It’s funny to watch the embarrassed expressions of his underlings as they have to sit there and listen to one of his soliloquies about “broken borders” and evil corrupt Mexicans.

    Just like Coulter, Hannity, Savage, Limbaugh, etc., etc., Dobbs is a construct invented by enterprising people who know that the more absurd and extreme they act, the better they can appeal to the more base instincts of a skittish undereducated public who is looking for the blood of convenient scapegoats. These performers know what they’re doing, and are getting filthy rich of their acts. But c’mon, no one can really be like the character “Lou Dobbs” performs on TV, can they? That disingenuous grin on that fat face, the way he grits his teeth and fumes “THE OUTRAGE… THOSE IDIOTS…”, name-calling as a debating tactic, etc.

    Now that’s some good “journatainment”!

  • Edward F. Thiery

    Rio de Janeiro

    My two favorite stations are CNNI and TV Globo, Brazil. Between them I get a balanced view of the news. I like CNNI because it is not sensational or frenetic, and TV Globo is likewise. However, Dobbs is shameful, much like Limbaugh.

    However, let us not forget that there would be less illegal immigration if our fellow American citizens did not hire cheap labor to do jobs that most others would not do, and the cartels would not be in business if Americans did not use illicit drugs and thereby bankroll their criminal activity. Users, most of whom are not addicts but, rather, “recreational” users, have the blood of the victims on their hands, and they share the guilt.

  • Mr:Hussein

    I don’t understand why CNN doesn’t boot Lou . We are going through bad times in the economy , wars , and what have you and Lou still focus on immigration, please CNN can we have a change, I’m tired of the hate Lou brings I want more news then hate. I’m pretty sure Ted Turner would of boot Lou long time ago.

  • Irv

    Dobbs not only uses apologies as cover, he is responsible for getting a memo that the Missouri Police used to warn everyone about militia terrorists like Ron Paul, Bob Barr. Charles Baldwin and he gave it to the conservative press, stating the SPLC was behind it all.

    I’m not sure what all is in the memo, but as I understand it it involved many groups the police should watch out for, because they were militia terrorists, but a copy of it is in the hands of a lot of people.

    I can only get conservative talk shows in my area, so if I’m driving someplace I listen to that out of boredom if there’s nothing else which is often, because I live in the boondocks and we have only three stations we can get clearly: Goldie Oldies, C&W and a 100% talk radio station, from Rush Limbaugh to Michael Savage.

    They’ve run the subject into the ground. Even Rush Limbaugh was moaning about it, which is a bit unusual, because he usually sticks strictly to politics and political figures.

    I’ve got a feeling there’s something going on I don’t think I’m going to like, besides this collapsing economy.

  • GENO

    I watched Lou Dobbs tonight, this time it was aired on HLN instead of CNN(I usually watch HLN over CNN besides MSNBC, sorry, no thanks to FAUXnews though)
    I was watching the interviews of the freed border patrol agents-Ramos & Compean. These *nonwhite* border patrol agents are role models. They were just doing their jobs by the enforcement of our immigration laws and was merely securing our borders. We need more *nonwhite* border patrol agents like these. I am proud of the border patrol agents because the agency is racially diversified incorporating nonwhites into the unit. But the border patrol must be wary of white extremists movements interferring with their daily border patrols. And must refrain from association from such extremists like the minutemen and border vigilantes. Because nonwhites are nonexistent in these natavist hategroups and therefore, they must be denounced to the fullest.

  • The Exaggerator

    How do we know Mr. Dobbs’ apology was made sincerely, in good faith, and out of the goodness of his heart?

    Until then, boys and girls, said apologia should be regarded with skepticism and naivete–IMHO.

  • Ryan the non-Aryan

    Let me get this straight. He isn’t only “attacking immigrants” legal and illegal, but he is now going so far as to attack “conservative” Hispanic Americans? Really? Such as the U.S. HCC, which by the way-“represents the interests of more than 2.5 million Hispanic owned businesses.”

    Attacking the U.S. HCC isn’t going to make Dobsey very popular these days, even with “conservative” Hispanics. He may even reach out to Blacks if need be and scoot over the white supremacists just to keep his ratings up or whatnot. I don’t think his insincere apology will help him one bit. And I’m sure the vast majority of Hispanics are not buying it. Given his habitual grudge on Latinos regardless of their status quo. It is of no surprise that Lou Dobbs show has an extremely low rating point in recent times. Who else watches that janus-faced Lou Dobbs besides white supremacists?

  • Carter

    I’m personally very glad Dobbs apologized; that was a very stupid, untrue thing to say. But people in the USA have to start understanding what Journalism is & the difference between NEWS Reporting, Opinion / Editorial pieces & entertainment. Perhaps we need a little rating system or an advisory beforehand.
    If even once in a while Americans would turn off the damn TV & READ they may start to have a greater understanding of the world around them.

    In regards to more firearms laws preventing Drug Cartels from gathering weapons, the Senator needs to understand how Drug Cartels function. They do not need uncle Dave’s revolver for them to perpetrate violence. We have wonderful, multiple laws in existence right now that cover the firearms available to the US Public getting into the hands of criminals: domestic or foreign.
    What we don’t have is what Drug Cartels do have…..Billions of dollars in ready cash to spend on arms dealers within both black & gray markets.
    The worthy Senator needs to study the issue a bit more. Mexican officials have a serious endemic problem with corruption that only billions of dollars in cash can create. Both in Columbia & Mexico many very honest & brave men have died fighting corruption.
    That’s no small sacrifice and no small lesson to the officials that the choice between silver & lead still exists. US Congress people may not ever understand what that REALLY means. It’s not a television show or Hollywood movie; solvable in one & a half hours by bodybuilders playing military special forces.

  • Robert Inman

    Providing a public forum for this person (Dobbs) is irresponsible to the max.