11/11/2009

Statement by SPLC President Richard Cohen on the Departure of Lou Dobbs from CNN

Earlier this year, we called upon CNN to remove Lou Dobbs from the air for trading in falsehoods and racist conspiracy theories. Tonight we are glad that Dobbs has announced his departure from his influential position at CNN.

In his announcement, Dobbs complained that the public debate over important issues is now defined by "partisanship and ideology rather than rigorous empirical thought and forthright analysis and discussion."

The truth is, Dobbs has done as much as anyone to poison the immigration debate by repeatedly reporting false information about immigrants. The most outrageous statement was his claim that immigrants were responsible for bringing thousands of new cases of leprosy to the United States during a recent three-year period. He also lent legitimacy to conspiracy theories, such as the claim that undocumented immigrants are part of a plot to reconquer the American Southwest. Most recently, he gave credence to the utterly baseless idea that President Obama is not a native-born American citizen.

Dobbs was certainly capable of fine journalism. But, as his ratings grew, he became a prisoner of the independent image he tried to cultivate, someone seemingly incapable of admitting a mistake. CNN should have asked him to resign long ago.