The US has over 50 millions Latinos, and by 2050 the US Latino population is expected to triple. Latino in America portrays this incredibly complex, diverse, fast-growing community through a series of individual stories. CNN calls it:
“. . . an ambitious documentary initiative [that] examines the growing diversity of America, revealing insight into a changing nation on the eve of the U.S. census that is expected to officially confirm that Latino Americans are the largest minority group within the country.”
It later adds:
Latino in America received a number of positive reviews, thanks in large part to the excellent work of Soledad O’Brien. But Jon Klein’s attempt to move the dialogue beyond immigration has not fared so well.
Dobbs is right up there with Joseph Arpaio, the infamous sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, as heroes of anti-immigration extremists. He has repeatedly used his CNN program to rally the faithful and successfully fight all attempts to come up with a fair, bipartisan immigration reform bill in the country.Dobbs is clearly entitled to his own opinions. But, I worry that his frequent rants against illegal, mostly poor Mexican immigrants, may be contributing to the rise in hate crimes against Latinos:
“FBI statistics show an alarming increase in the number of hate crimes across the nation. Latinos, the numbers say, have become the racists' target of choice in the last four years. Since 2003, hate crimes against Hispanics have increased by a shocking 40%. According to the FBI, almost 67% of crimes motivated by ethnic or national origin are committed against Latinos.”
I generally respect and often watch CNN. But, along with many others, I have been wondering if CNN management is being somewhat hypocritical and/or disingenuous in attempting to “move the dialogue beyond immigration” while continuing to provide Lou Dobbs with a primetime platform from which to blame almost any problem facing the country on Latino illegal immigrants. I feel that in sponsoring a program like Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN has been selling its soul and seriously compromising its brand in an attempt to increase its ratings by appealing to a Fox News kind of audience.
I cannot help seeing Soledad O’Brien, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez and others promoting Latino in America without thinking about Lou Dobbs. I keep wanting to ask them, as well as other top CNN reporters and executives, what they think of Dobbs. Are they happy to be associated with him by being part of the same news organization? How do they feel about his continuous attacks on poor, illegal Mexican immigrants?Is Dobbs just expressing a different but responsible point of view, as CNN management has claimed over the years, or has he gone too far in using his powerful media perch to demonize a defenseless minority? What about his recent role as a leader of the birthers, who believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawai, and is therefore not qualified to be the President of the United States?
So far CNN has said nothing about the questions being asked about Dobbs in the context of Latino in America. I have not heard it come up once in the many appearances Ms O’Brien has made to promote the documentary in different CNN news programs. Clearly, they are consciously avoiding the subject.In addition, CNN refused to air an ad by America’s Voice a pro-immigration reform group. And, according to this recent article, CNN also edited out any mention of Lou Dobbs in the special report:
“Isabel Garcia, a civil rights lawyer who was featured in “Latino in America” and organized an anti-Dobbs protest in Tucson on Wednesday, said that CNN edited her comments about the anchor out of an interview . . . During the taped interview Wednesday, she said she made several unprompted comments about Mr. Dobbs.”
“She said she called Mr. Arpaio and Mr. Dobbs ‘the two most dangerous men to our communities,’ and said that ‘because of them, our communities are being terrorized in a real way.’ She also asserted that CNN was ‘promoting lies and hate about our community’ by broadcasting Mr. Dobbs’s program. The comments were not included when the interview was shown Wednesday night.
“They heavily deleted what I did get to say,” she said, to which a CNN spokesman replied: “As with all pre-taped interviews, they are edited for time and relevance to the topic of discussion.”Beyond my strong personal feelings on the matter, I continue to wonder how far you can push a brand before it breaks. Can CNN have it both ways - continue to provide Lou Dobbs with his primetime anti-immigration platform while remaining a highly respected news organization with programs like Latino in America? Am I being overly sensitive, as I worry about the potential connections between the rise in hate crimes against Latinos and the constant anti-immigrant rants from Lou Dobbs and people like him? Is CNN just doing its job in providing different opinions and points of view?
For a while my disappointment with CNN got the better of me and I stopped watching the station altogether. But after a while I realized that I was cutting off my nose to spite my face, because other than Lou Dobbs, I like and respect CNN and its people. So, I decided that I would just stay away from any programs where Dobbs appears, and watch everything else I liked.
The best news I recently heard on this issue is that Lou Dobbs might be in discussions with Roger Ailes about a possible move to Fox News. This would be a match made in extreme right heaven, a solution that would work best for everyone involved.
Dobbs would be a perfect fit in a channel like Fox, which is best known for their highly opinionated commentators like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. While Fox may also have good reporters, their brand is most closely associated with strong, somewhat extreme political views, less so with news.
CNN, on the other hand, has established a very strong brand over the years as a global news organization. Most of us hold their programs, even their more opinion-oriented ones, to the standards of a world-class news organization. People can argue strongly for their different opinions, but their facts better be right.
I realize that like all news organizations, CNN is fighting hard to reinvent itself and increase its ratings. But, abandoning your core brand value in trying to emulate the competition is seldom the answer. In the long run, CNN will be better off losing Lou Dobbs, whose ratings are no longer all that good in any case. CNN should continue to offer highly professional news programs, discussions and interviews, as well as important documentaries like Latino in America, while it searches for the right way to revitalize its brand and increase its audience.