10/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dobbs To Rally Anti-Immigrant Fans On Capitol Hill

On September 15 and 16, Lou Dobbs is scheduled to once again broadcast his radio show from Capitol Hill as part of the "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" lobbying conference and rally sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

FAIR is a fervently anti-immigrant group, founded by white nationalist John Tanton.

Media Matters is pushing hard against Dobbs' participation in the event, sending a letter to CNN President Jonathan Klein and asking readers to do the same.

The full letter:

August 28, 2009

Dear Mr. Klein:

On September 15 and 16, Lou Dobbs is scheduled to broadcast from Capitol Hill as a leading voice of the annual "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" two-day legislative advocacy conference and rally sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Including Mr. Dobbs, the event will feature 47 conservative talk radio hosts from around the country. We write to urge you to prohibit Mr. Dobbs from participating in this event.

FAIR is a rabidly anti-immigrant organization founded by an unrepentant racist, who remains on its board. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FAIR a "hate group." Mr. Dobbs' participation -- and, inextricably, CNN's -- would bestow legitimacy on the rally and on FAIR, as the group itself recognizes and touts. In announcing its 2008 "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" conference (from which Mr. Dobbs was allowed to broadcast his CNN television show), the FAIR Congressional Task Force boasted in a press release that Mr. Dobbs' "prominence will add to the visibility and stature of an event that has already had an enormous impact on the national debate about immigration policy." FAIR's website approvingly stated that in 2007, "talk radio and cable news programs such as Dobbs' " helped turn the public against immigration reform efforts, which it labels as "amnesty." The press release announcing this year's rally notes that it will be "led by Roger Hedgecock ... and Lou Dobbs." In addition, the group has given Mr. Dobbs its "People's Voice Award" for "his continued efforts in leading the immigration reform movement through both his talk radio show and his television show."

CNN's association with FAIR through Mr. Dobbs is nothing less than a stain on an organization that calls itself "The Most Trusted Name in News." FAIR was founded by John Tanton, who still sits on the organization's board of directors. Tanton has a long history of making racist statements, espousing racist beliefs, and funding racist organizations. In 1986, Tanton reportedly wrote: "As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night?" In 1993, he reportedly wrote: "I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." In 1997, Tanton was quoted by the Detroit Free Press as saying that without a reduction in immigration levels, the United States will be overwhelmed by people "defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs." In 2001, Tanton reportedly praised the work of John Trevor, a notorious Nazi sympathizer, saying his work should form "a guidepost to what we must follow again this time." Tanton is not a relic of FAIR's past: In the organization's 2004 annual report, chairman of the board of directors Nancy Anthony wrote that Tanton's "visionary qualities have not waned one bit. He stills floods us with more ideas than we can possibly absorb."

In March, Dobbs' CNN show reported that FAIR "supports a temporary moratorium on immigration." FAIR executive director Dan Stein has been quoted saying the following: "Many [immigrants] hate America, hate everything the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans."

FAIR has been sharply criticized in the media for racially tinged ads. A 2000 campaign ad the group ran against former Sen. Spencer Abraham, a Lebanese-American, attacked his support for making more visas available for foreign workers and accused him of "trying to make it easier for terrorists like Osama bin Laden to export their way of terror to any city street in America." In 2004, a group of FAIR-backed ads targeting former Texas Democrat Martin Frost and former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel featured dark-skinned men loitering on street corners and running from the police. The Dallas Morning News denounced the ads in an April 2004 editorial, calling them "as racially tinged as those Willie Horton ads the late Mr. [Lee] Atwater put together for the first President Bush during his 1988 White House bid." In an April 24, 2004, editorial, the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star called the ads "trash" that "incite hate," "play upon stereotypical racial fears," and "are full of half-truths and lies.'"

And yet, rather than denouncing the group, Mr. Dobbs' CNN show has cited FAIR as a credible source on immigration issues no fewer than six times in the last year while also routinely failing to disclose his close association with the group.

There should be no doubt concerning the content of the upcoming rally. It will give a platform to precisely the type of radio host you, Mr. Klein, reportedly said would no longer be invited on CNN. Speakers last year included Les Kinsolving, a columnist who asked Robert Gibbs at a White House press briefing why the president won't release his "long-form birth certificate." Another speaker from last year, South Florida radio host Joyce Kaufman, has reportedly said of undocumented immigrants: "If you commit a crime while you're here, we should hang you and send your body back to where you came from, and your family should pay for it." Also on the roster last year was Steve Gill, a Nashville radio host who has said of President Obama: "This man, and his evil minions, really do hate this country." Jeff Katz, while a radio host in Sacramento, reportedly "said motorists should be awarded a sombrero-shaped bumper sticker for every illegal immigrant hit while attempting to cross the border from Mexico," adding, in the words of the Sacramento Bee, that "[f]or every 10 bumper stickers ... a motorist would earn a free drink or meal at Taco Bell."

As Media Matters has highlighted repeatedly, Mr. Dobbs represents an ongoing threat to CNN's credibility as a serious news organization, in no small part because of his polemical coverage of immigration issues and his continued use of his CNN show to lend prominence to groups such as FAIR. The attention and legitimacy he gave to the "birther" movement -- and CNN's condoning of his actions -- did real damage to that credibility. His participation in the upcoming FAIR rally would do further, serious damage. We urge you to finally acknowledge that Mr. Dobbs' actions in this and other contexts are inconsistent with the reputation that CNN strives to maintain.

We await your response.


Eric Burns
Media Matters for America