Calling All Hatewatchers: Introducing the Dobbsy

Today on CNN, Lou Dobbs kicks off his “Independent Convention” — his answer to the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions of the past two weeks.

We figured this would be a great time to introduce a new tongue-in-cheek award, to be given to “mainstream” figures — politicians, pundits, preachers and pedants — who make utterly false or misleading statements that have the effect of denigrating or defaming an entire group of people.

Naturally, we’re calling it the Dobbsy.

After all, who has made this kind of mainstream defamation more infamous than the man who insisted, despite a huge mountain of evidence to the contrary, that 7,000 new cases of leprosy had appeared in a recent three-year span, thanks largely to immigrants? Dobbs, of course. He even told Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes”: “If we reported it, it’s a fact.”

Dobbs did report it. But it wasn’t a fact.

Even though “60 Minutes,” The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Columbia Journalism Review, Media Matters for America, and others showed that his numbers were inflated (by a factor of about 17), he declined to retract the claim. Demonstrating that his source was an extreme-right migrant-hater with no expertise in immigration or disease failed to budge the host of "Lou Dobbs Tonight," either. In round after media round, Dobbs refused to admit he had been wrong.

Dobbs isn’t alone, of course, in spreading misinformation in the media. That’s why we are launching the Dobbsy — because some exaggerations and falsehoods uttered by mainstream figures are simply so outrageous that they demand special recognition.

We’d like to ask our readers to join us in the search for these propagandists. Please send us your nominations, along with any links or other supporting evidence for what they said and why they’re factually wrong. We will occasionally select one of these for a Dobbsy citation and write-up, and at some point, we’ll have a grand competition in which we’ll ask readers for their help in selecting a “winner.”

To get us into the spirit of things, we reprint here a short but unforgettable extract of Dobbs’ interview with Lesley Stahl (full disclosure: I criticized Dobbs in that same “60 Minutes” segment), which aired on May 6, 2007:

STAHL: We checked and found a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying 7,000 is the number of leprosy cases over the last 30 years, not the past three, and nobody knows how many of those cases involved immigrants. Now we went to try and check that number, 7,000. We can’t. Just so you know…

DOBBS: Well, I can tell you this. If we reported it, it’s a fact.

STAHL: You can’t tell me that. You did report it…

DOBBS: Well, no, I just did.

STAHL: How can you guarantee that to me?

DOBBS: Because I’m the managing editor, and that’s the way we do business. We don’t make up numbers, Lesley. Do we?

I think that gives our intrepid readers an idea of what we’re looking for. Go out, be fruitful, and send us your findings. It won’t be long before we award the first Dobbsy. They say they don’t make up numbers. But do they?