By now, CNN's Lou Dobbs, with his single-minded obsession over all things anti-immigrant and his bizarre embrace of the loony birther movement, is well known for trafficking in disturbing, misleading, and often inaccurate garbage. Escaping under the radar of many, however, are his close associations with an organization that has been described by experts as a "hate group."
On September 15 and 16, Dobbs is scheduled to appear at the "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" rally and legislative advocacy event in the nation's capital being thrown by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). These anti-immigrant zealots must be pleased as heavily spiked punch to have Dobbs helping out again this year, just as they were with his participation last year when it bragged in a press release that the CNN host's "prominence will add to the visibility and stature of [the] event."
Heck, they even gave Dobbs their first-ever "People's Voice Award" for his "continued efforts in leading the immigration reform movement through both his talk radio show and his television show." The award is no doubt nearly as coveted as the jingoistic fumes that seem to fuel both Dobbs and the organization.
So what exactly is FAIR, other than a conveniently misleading acronym?
Well, for starters, the group was founded 30 years ago by John Tanton, who remains on its board to this day and happens to have a well-documented history of making racist statements and espousing racist beliefs.
In 2001, Tanton reportedly praised the work of a notorious Nazi sympathizer, saying his work should form "a guidepost to what we must follow again this time." Back in the mid-1980s, he authored memos, which the nonpartisan Southern Poverty Law Center said were meant for "colleagues who met at retreats to discuss immigration." According to news reports, the memos, in part, "raised questions about the 'reproductive powers' of the races, suggesting: 'perhaps this is the first instance in which those with the pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!' "
The memos are all the more chilling when coupled with the fact that according to FAIR's publicly available IRS disclosure forms, the organization has received at least $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that supports the work of white supremacists, eugenicists, and others who seek to prove that genetic differences exist between races.
Dobbs strikes like a rattlesnake when he's accused of being anti-immigrant, claiming his venom is reserved only for illegal immigrants. But FAIR -- whose spokespeople often grace Dobbs' CNN program -- takes a hard line against even legal immigration, promoting a policy that would effectively halt hard-working men and women, the spouses and family of American citizens and countless others from legally immigrating to America in a tradition not unlike many of our ancestors. FAIR's current president, Dan Stein, was painfully forthcoming when he said: "Many [immigrants] hate America, hate everything the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans."
FAIR also has a long history of producing racially charged television commercials that have attacked both Republicans and Democrats -- ads which have been described in newspaper editorials as "racially tinged" and "trash" that "incite hate," "play upon stereotypical racial fears," and "are full of half-truths and lies."
It's easy to understand why the SPLC has designated FAIR a "hate group." What's hard to figure out, however, is why CNN would allow Dobbs to publicly align himself with such a group. Rather than denouncing the organization, Dobbs' CNN program has cited FAIR as a reliable source on the immigration issue no fewer than six times in the last year. Of course, he also routinely fails to disclose the chummy relationship he shares with the group.
CNN prides itself on being "the most trusted name in news." It goes to great lengths to distinguish itself from what it apparently sees as the lost souls over at MSNBC and Fox News. The network ran ads earlier this summer declaring, "Get the facts from the only news channel to give you all sides. No spin. No affiliation. No agenda." Its president, Jonathan Klein, laid it on even thicker, saying, "We've really tried hard to differentiate ourselves as the real news network."
With all due respect, Mr. Klein, you need to try a bit harder.
It's bad enough that employers take advantage of undocumented immigrants. For CNN to sit back and count the Dobbs dollars rolling in at the expense of such people is even worse. If Dobbs won't end his association with FAIR, CNN should do the right thing and end its association with Dobbs.
Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.