As the movement calling for his ouster from CNN continues to surge, Lou Dobbs is fighting back -- and fumbling. Instead of responding to legitimate concerns about his anti-Latino fear-mongering, Dobbs expressed himself in a manner resembling that of the extremists he promotes on his show: with lies, angry outbursts and juvenile name calling. He even went so far as to call yours truly a "flea" and a "bozo."
I could respond to Dobbs invitation to ride the downward spiral of personal insults, but won't. With hate crimes against Latinos on the rise, this fight is too serious for playground tactics. I won't join Dobbs in an insult exchange for the simple fact that this cause isn't about me, it's about the thousands of Latinos and their allies saying ¡Basta! -- enough negative portrayals in the media! And, in a deeper sense, our cause isn't really even about Lou Dobbs -- it's about the network that has made him a household name: CNN.
We're taking our fight to CNN because we know Dobbs won't change. For years, Latinos and others throughout the United States have organized protests and press conferences denouncing Dobbs' dangerous rhetoric. Think tanks and countless journalists have produced reports documenting the falsehoods and fakery that pass for "news" on Dobbs' show. Yet, all we get from Dobbs are half-hearted apologies, lame excuses and more of the same. Our movement, housed at BastaDobbs.com, is exerting the same kind of pubic pressure that forced networks to drop disgraced radio jock Don Imus and other media personalities for their inappropriate behavior on the air. Lou Dobbs has a national, prime time platform because CNN and its President, Jon Klein give it to him. And throughout the Latino United States, people are demanding accountability for that decision.
I know this because, for the past two months, I have been talking to people and groups throughout the country. Just last week in D.C. -- the same city where Dobbs recently attended a rally sponsored by the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR -- a Salvadoran immigrant woman attending a forum on immigration walked up to me with eyes bubbling in anger. She said: "He [Dobbs] is helping those groups that hate and hurt us" and asked, "Why does CNN allow this? We must stop this." I'm encountering this same question in cities across the country and throughout the internet.
Dobbs and CNN are also bringing unprecedented alignment and agreement among Latinos of all strata. For example, 70% of those participating in a survey of 100 major Latino leaders -- a survey released last week and which includes members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, CEO's of Fortune 500 companies and other national leaders- believe that organizing a campaign targeting Dobbs is "a good idea."
While our focus on CNN means we won't join in Dobbs' personal attacks, we have taken note of his recent comments on his radio show. Referring to Basta Dobbs.com he said last week, "they are no more Latino than anyone ..." I think the members of our coalition would be surprised to hear that they and their members are "no more Latino than anyone." Dobbs sudden interest in speaking not just against but for Latinos caught the attention of many of us--as does CNN's sudden business interest in Latinos.
CNN's moves to capture a segment of the "mission critical" Latino market are no secret. Latinos understand why we're seeing more of Rick Sanchez and other Latinos on CNN. And we are cautiously optimistic about how CNN will treat us in its upcoming Latino in America series. But to watch sunny Soledad Obrien singing the praises of Latino contributors to American society, while just a time slot away the dark and ever- dour Lou Dobbs continues infecting the airwaves with deadly misinformation about "criminal illegal aliens" is just too much hypocrisy for us. Regardless of CNN's big money efforts to target Latino viewers, the continuation of Dobbs' program guarantees that, for Latinos, the name "CNN" is synonymous with "anti-Latino hatred."
Viewed from this perspective, Rick Sanchez's recent claim that Latinos working at the more openly biased Fox News were "sellouts" raises questions about what kind of house Sanchez thinks he lives in. At least Fox host Geraldo Rivera has had the cojones to say that "Lou Dobbs has done more to slander Latin people in this country than any other human being." Will CNN Latin@s like Soledad O'Brien and Sanchez join their community in asking why their employer continues to prop up the Most Dangerous Man for Latinos in America?
These questions are incredibly important. But don't just take it from me. In the coming days and weeks I will share the stories of people I meet as I travel from city to city, listening to Latinos in America who are deeply concerned about Lou Dobbs, and educating them about the importance of taking a collective stand through campaigns like BastaDobbs.com. You see, underlying CNN's desire to capture Latino audiences--our large and growing numbers--is the same reason they must heed our call to dump Dobbs from their network.
Follow Roberto Lovato on Twitter: www.twitter.com/robvato