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

A Kinder, Gentler Lou Dobbs?

By Larry Keller on August 5, 2010 - 9:17 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

Ever since he was bounced from his high-profile gig at CNN nearly nine months ago, we have seen a kinder, gentler Lou Dobbs than the commentator who became synonymous with vilifying undocumented immigrants.

The latest from Dobbs came this week, when he told Megyn Kelly at Fox News and George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he disagreed with the growing number of Republican senators calling for amending or repealing the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to babies born in America. Critics complain that illegal immigrants take advantage of the amendment to come to the United States to have “anchor babies” who are eligible for welfare benefits and who are used to eventually get citizenship for their parents. (The key words in the amendment are these: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Congress adopted the 14th Amendment after the Civil War, in part, to guarantee the citizenship of freed slaves and their descendants.)

“The idea that anchor babies somehow require changing the 14th Amendment, I part ways with the senators on that because I believe the 14th Amendment, particularly in its due process and equal protection clauses, is so important,” Dobbs said on Fox. “It lays the foundation for the entire Bill of Rights being applied to the states.” On ABC, Dobbs said, “It is not in the interest of the American people, in my judgment at least, to roll back the laws … because the result may be inconvenient to some and their political views.”

This is the same Dobbs who often made spurious claims about undocumented immigrants on his CNN program — that there was a surge of leprosy cases likely due to immigrants, that immigrants filled one-third of American prison cells, and so on. Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center and others called for Dobbs’ firing after the CNN host suggested that the president had not proved he was born in the United States. In November, Dobbs left the network at a reported cost to CNN of $8 million to buy out his contract.

Only nine days after that, Dobbs began to sound more conciliatory in his remarks about undocumented immigrants. In an interview he did with the American Spanish-language television network Telemundo, Dobbs said, “We need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants under certain conditions.” He added, “What isn’t working is a penalty to those who are in this country illegally for whom we can both be building a bridge to the future in which there is legalization and at the same time constructing an environment in which everyone is clear and unequivocal about the need for border security and a regulated flow of immigration.”

Those comments enraged one of Dobbs’ most ardent fans, William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC — ALIPAC. He had collected pledges of more than $672,000 from people like himself who hoped Dobbs would run for president in 2012. Saying he was “dismayed, angry, sad” and more, Gheen withdrew ALIPAC’s support for a Dobbs presidency.

Dobbs’ rhetoric has continued to be less inflammatory since then. He has advocated a “rational, humane immigration system” several times on his radio show. He told a caller on April 1: “I’m pro-immigrant. I am for higher levels of immigration, not lower, as long as there’s a public policy reason for it. I’m anti-illegal immigration, but I’m also for rational, effective humane immigration policies.”

The more strident anti-illegal immigrant activists who were once Dobbs’ fans aren’t pleased with comments like those, or his remarks this week regarding the 14th Amendment. “Lou, you are full of something we all find foul!” one wrote on ALIPAC’s website yesterday. “Take a stand and don’t appologize [sic] like so many whimpy [sic] republicans or I assure your children and grand children they will have nothing left to hope for in a few short years.”

Evelyn Schlatter contributed to this post.

  • beholder

    While on the topic of falsehoods in the nativist press — Fox News just ran this screed:

    The article erroneously claims “only a few” countries have birthright citizenship. In fact, almost every country in the Americas does have birthright citizenship due to a common colonial history, while 16% of the world’s nations have jus soli laws.

    That’s more than a few in my opinion.

    Nor is it mentioned that ending jus soli in Asia and Europe didn’t just not stop illegal immigration, it raised the number of unauthorized immigrants because they still had kids anyway. No one from the right can PROVE that birthright citizenship is even a draw for immigrants who come here to work — kids cost money.

  • beholder

    The kindness of those willing to forgive Dobbs is inspiring, but I cannot trust this man.

    He repeatedly slandered the immigrant community of our nation with false slanders and lies, mendaciously beggared of truth in every word.

    Did he learn his lesson in his tumble from his privileged eyrie, the anti-immigrant hawk thrown down into his own offal? I think not.

    His motive is political. He sidewinds. He knows America’s memory is short and has only proflagate self interest at heart. Do not pity this weeping crocodile.

  • Anon

    As for Dobbs maybe the thought of being recognized as a principal author of a future “gestapo state” was more than he could contenance… Bobby Byrd turned away from evil maybe Dobbs can too

  • Anon

    Kudos AW for embracing humanity over hate… the world is has become a little bit better because of you.

  • american wetback

    the universe is made up light and dark matter, divinely intertwined, both good and evil in us is encapsulated in the matter we call the body.there is Native American story that explains it better than science can for us the layperson.
    A little boy was walking with his grandfather. “Grandfather why are you always in a good spirit? “Ah’ my son. I wasn’t always like this, I am a warrior from childhood just like you. Now I am a peaceful warrior, that is my path and it can be yours too if you so choose and if I teach you well. Are you willing?” “Yes”, replied the little boy. “There are two wolves inside of us. A good wolf and a bad wolf. They are always at war. Sometimes the good wolf wins a battle, sometimes the bad wolf wins, but it seems the bad wolf wins more often. So you have to kill the bad wolf.” “How do you kill it? It seems so fierce.” “I stopped feeding it, now it starves. The good wolf is stronger, but the bad wolf never dies, you just don’t feed it. The bad wolf feeds on the poison of the world and I stopped drinking the poison. You can be anything you want to be, but if you allow other peoples poison into yourself, the bad wolf grows strong again.”
    dont drink the kool-aid!

  • american wetback

    this just proves my point that anyone can change. i did it and i was a racist who took it to the extreme. my daughter commented on a black kid being good looking, i had to swallow my words. but i didnt teach her hatred. i told her, “yes he is”. i knew i had crossed from the darkness of hate to the light of tolerance. i have friends who are ex nazis, they also left because that life is hate for breakfast lunch and supper. 24/7 hate. how i lived like this’ i dont know, but i am grateful to whatever spirit now calls my heart home. i fed the good wolf.

  • beholder

    Damn right Dobbs left. And we owe it in no small part to the good work of the SPLC.

    But I digress.

    I don’t trust Dobbs. But I do think he is smart enough to realize that calling to repeal the 14th Amendment is betting on a losing horse.

    Despite the clear intent by our Founders to confer birthright citizenship on any person born on US soil, there have been attempts to change that guarantee virtually ever year since the last decade.

    As a service to citizen journalists, here are some concrete examples of how this proposal has failed time and time again in recent years:

    H.R. 6789, 110th Cong. (2008); H. R. Res. 46, 110th Cong. (2007); H.R. 1940, 110th Cong. (2007); H.R. 4192, 110th Cong. (2007); H.R. 3700, 109th Cong. (2005); H.R. 3938, 109th Cong. (2005); H.R. 698, 109th Cong. (2005); H.R. 7, 105th Cong. (1997); H.R. 346, 105th Cong. (1997); H.R. 1363, 104th Cong. (1995).

    There is clearly one reason why the Republicans are wagering their already festering reputations on a bill that has zero chance of success.

    It is because in failing, they will have another cry of rage to throw in front of their constituents ahead of midterms, and disguise the fact that they have made no serious policy proposals since Obama was elected.

    The Republican party is in absolute disarray. What appeared just a few months ago as popular support has gradually weakened as the same old lies lose their sting and the population goes back to business as usual. There is only so much vitriol the People can take before they get sick of the bellyaching and want results.

    If we carry this fight forward in the full glare of the public eye, not only will we smash this squalid attempt to corrupt the Constitution with political opportunism, but it will be possible to drive an even greater wedge between the Tea Party and the moderate Republicans who have enough sense to see through the ploy (like Dobbs).

    Right wing infighting can only help to ensure victory in November for responsible lawmakers who are seriously interested in reforming our nation’s immigration laws, instead of stirring up hate and rage to hide the obviously disorganized and clearly inept GOP platform.

  • Alan Aardman

    Any Republican who supports altering or repealing the Fourteenth Amendment cannot call themselves a member of the party of Lincoln.

  • ruben

    as long as you are alive and breathing there is always room to realize the mistakes you have made and change your ways!! or could it be that he just now realized that the people he hated ,slandered and smeared were also his wife and kids!….dobbs wife is of mexican decent which make his kids half mexican….lol!!….i wonder what the breakfast conversations were like at the dobbs household.anyway it is good to see that he is now coming to his senses.

  • Mason Green

    Kudos to Lou Dobbs (!) for standing up in defense of the 14th Amendment.

    The 14th Amendment was what made the civil rights movement successful. It provided the constitutional basis for the key Supreme Court decisions Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia. Do the people who think the 14th amendment is a bad thing feel the same way about Brown and Loving? You’d think the likes of Lindsey Graham would know better than to be tampering with the 14th. He ought to read the history of the civil rights movement in detail, then rethink his position.