SPLC takes on Lou Dobbs, ignites ‘birther’ debate

By Linda Bentley | July 29, 2009

‘… trading in falsehoods and racist conspiracy theories, questioning Obama’s American citizenship’
PHOENIX – Mayor Phil Gordon announced last week he has invited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Director of Research Heidi Beirich to town to meet with law enforcement and the media to raise awareness of “hate groups” in Arizona.

Earlier this year, when the SPLC released its Intelligence Report titled: “The Year In Hate,” it stated, “Fueled by non-white immigration, the economy and the rise to power of a black president,” the number of active hate groups rose to a record 926, 19 of which are in Arizona.

Gordon claims these “hate groups” often label themselves as “patriots” or “community activists” on their websites, fooling even the media.

According to Beirich, there is a great deal of skinhead and neo-Nazi activity the metropolitan Phoenix area due to its close proximity to the border. She says hate-group activity can include marches, rallies, distribution of pamphlets and criminal acts and it’s important to raise awareness of “the dangers associated with hate groups” in Phoenix, “especially anti-immigration extremists.”

Last week, Lou Dobbs discussed both on his radio show and on “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” which airs on CNN, the issue of Obama’s birth certificate and the question of his constitutional eligibility to hold the office of President.

As his staff researched the subject, Dobbs said he learned neither the Federal Elections Commission nor the states do anything to validate a candidate’s eligibility and asked why Obama wouldn’t simply produce his original birth certificate and make all this speculation go away.

Because Dobbs mentioned the subject on CNN, SPLC President J. Richard Cohen fired off a letter to CNN President Jonathan Klein last Friday stating, “It’s time for CNN to remove Mr. Dobbs from the airwaves.”

Cohen wrote, “As an important and respected news organization, CNN has a special responsibility to ensure the accuracy of its reporting. We have written to you before about our concern that Lou Dobbs repeatedly fails to live up to this standard in his reporting on immigration. Now, Mr. Dobbs is again trading in falsehoods and racist conspiracy theories, questioning Obama’s American citizenship.”

Taking offense to Dobbs “jokingly suggesting President Obama may be ‘undocumented,’” Cohen referred to reporters that have not broached the subject as “real CNN reporters” who “tell the truth,” and said, “The fact that Mr. Dobbs suggests otherwise on CNN … is both deplorable and an embarrassment to all serious journalists.”

Cohen said by Dobbs “taking up the birthers’ claims,” he “is adopting an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that originated on the radical racist right,” claiming “this particular conspiracy theory was first developed by an open anti-Semite and circulated by right-wing extremists who cannot accept the fact that a black man has been elected President of the United States.”

MoveOn only demanded an apology from CNN, citing Dobbs was “helping to spread hate and fear.”

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request made by a citizen in Chicago, the Department of Homeland Security revealed its controversial report: “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” was based primarily on reports from the left-wing extremist SPLC, a proponent of illegal migration and Marxist policies, and the Anti-Defamation League, a long-time proponent of hate-crime legislation.

Cohen goes on to say, “This is not the first time Mr. Dobbs has pushed racist conspiracy theories or defamatory falsehoods about immigrants.”

In conclusion, Cohen wrote, “Respectable news organizations should not employ reporters willing to peddle racist conspiracy theories and false propaganda.”

Greg Sargent, who hosts a blog called “The Plum Line,” said he interviewed Klein and wrote, “Klein … also took a shot at Dobbs’ critics, saying they’re politically motivated: ‘I understand that people with a partisan point of view from one extreme or another might get annoyed that certain subjects are aired,’” adding Dobbs “had merely hosted ‘a few conversations with people representing a wide range of opinions.’”

When Sargent asked if CNN would take any action if Dobbs continued airing the “birther” theories, Klein responded, “I think no good journalist would ever say that a particular story will never be covered again. Every day brings new facts, new pegs.”