When J. Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly last July that CNN's Lou Dobbs should be kicked off the air for his biased and racist anti-immigrant claims, O'Reilly defended Dobbs and accused the civil rights activist of "overreacting." You'll never succeed, O'Reilly suggested in a mocking tone.
Tuesday, Nov. 11th, however, Lou Dobbs announced his intention to leave CNN "effective immediately." Some reports said he would probably seek a gig at the conservative Fox cable network or go into politics, according to ThinkProgress.org.
Lou Dobbs became a publicity problem for CNN after his repeated attacks on Latino organizations and immigrants. He falsely reported that immigrants from Mexico had brought leprosy into the US, and refused to retract the claim after it was shown to be untrue. He accused the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of favoring the export of drugs and "illegal aliens" from Mexico. He expressed open support for anti-immigrant vigilante groups like the Minutemen whose ties to white nationalist groups have been exposed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, Dobbs repeatedly claimed that President Obama had a "document" problem, implying that the president had not been born in the U.S. and might be an undocumented immigrant.
In his resignation announcement, Dobbs insisted he had been victimized by "partisanship" and that his reports had been based on "rigorous empirical thought and forthright analysis."
In a statement after Dobbs' announcement, Cohen rejected that claim. "The truth is," he said, "Dobbs has done as much as anyone to poison the immigration debate by repeatedly reporting false information about immigrants."
Dobbs "became a prisoner of the independent image he tried to cultivate, someone seemingly incapable of admitting a mistake," Cohen stated. "CNN should have asked him to resign long ago."
Dobbs' resignation came after a nationwide online campaign by Latino media, business, legal and community organizations pressured CNN to stop Dobbs' anti-immigrant rants. The campaign, known as BastaDobbs.com, said that 100,000 messages had been sent to CNN as of Nov. 5th.
BastaDobbs.com coordinator Roberto Lovato claimed victory at the news of Dobbs' ouster. "Our contention all along was that Lou Dobbs - who has a long record of spreading lies and conspiracy theories about immigrants and Latinos - does not belong on the ‘Most Trusted Name in News,'" said Lovato. "We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has this legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate."
A separate online campaign targeting Dobbs' corporate sponsors asked them to "Drop Dobbs." It was organized by a coalition of labor, immigrant rights and other civil rights organizations.
The events suggest that hard line cable commentators like Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck shouldn't get too comfortable in their well-padded anchor chairs.