Dobbs’ Departure Hailed by Critics — and Some Former Friends

Nativist Propagandists

The departure from CNN of resident immigrant-basher Lou Dobbs last November had echoes all over the political spectrum — including from a number of one-time cheerleaders who angrily denounced him for betraying their cause.

The hubbub dates to Dobbs’ resignation from his job as anchor of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” following months of pressure from groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), on the cable network to dump him. That pressure picked up last summer, when Dobbs seemed to endorse racist “birther” theories about Barack Obama’s non-eligibility to serve as president. It was then that SPLC officials called on CNN to drop Dobbs, and many others followed.

Roberto Lovato, a member of Presente.org, one of the groups formed late last year to coordinate the campaign to oust Dobbs, was delighted. “We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has this legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate,” he said. And Eric Burns, president of the watchdog group Media Matters for America, declared it “a happy day for all those who care about this nation of immigrants and believe in the power of media to elevate the political discourse.”

Then came an even more surprising development.

Nine days after his resignation, Dobbs granted an interview to an American Spanish-language television network, Telemundo. Shocking allies on the far right who saw him as a hero in their battle against “illegal aliens,” Dobbs told his interviewer that “we need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants under certain conditions.” On his own show, Dobbs had never sounded so moderate.

William Gheen, president of the nativist extremist group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, reacted like a cuckolded husband. “I am hurt, dismayed, angry, sad, exasperated, red faced, embarrassed and more after seeing this video,” he said.

Gheen’s North Carolina-based organization had already received pledges of more than $672,165 from Dobbs fans for a contemplated 2012 presidential run. On his group’s website, Gheen urged his members to view the Telemundo interview and respond to an online survey about Dobbs’ comments. More than two-thirds of the 1,987 respondents said they were “disappointed,” “upset” or “very upset” with their former hero. As a result, Gheen withdrew his group’s support from Dobbs.

Then, in early January, Dobbs made it worse, appearing on FOX News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” and again saying things that nativist hard-liners took as a double-cross. Glenn Spencer of the anti-immigrant hate group American Border Patrol said that Dobbs had “sold his country down the river” and, along with show host Bill O’Reilly, was “a sellout.” In fact, Spencer seemed to equate the gravity of Dobbs’ offense with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The date of Dobbs’ appearance on O’Reilly’s show, Spencer wrote, is “a date that will live in infamy.”