September 15 – October 15 marks “Hispanic Heritage Month” here in the U.S. According to the U.S. Census, there were 46.9 million people estimated Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2008, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority. Hispanics constituted 15 percent of the nation’s total population. In addition, there are approximately 4 million residents of Puerto Rico. (More population facts here.)
Given the large and growing population of Hispanic people in the U.S., there is also a growing awareness of anti-Latino racism. One very prominent and especially vitriolic source of anti-Latino sentiment is Lou Dobbs, an anchor and talking-head on CNN. Writing at Alternet, Robert Novato (founding member of Presente.org), says this:
Dobbs’ extremism can be seen and heard on most week nights and consists of three pillars: obsession with immigrants and Latinos; promotion of systematic myths about immigrants and Latinos; and, most dangerously, providing a platform for leaders of some of the most radical and violent anti-Latino groups in the United States.
More than anyone in national network news, Dobbs has declared war against those he calls “invaders” and “aliens.” According to the media watchdog group Media Matters, for example, from January 1 through July 23 of this year, Dobbs included segments on immigration in 77 out of 140 broadcast hours. With so much airtime dedicated to slandering Latinos, Dobbs has ample opportunity to spread misinformation. For example, he has blamed Latino immigrants for an alleged leprosy epidemic that was widely debunked, and has asserted Latinos’ criminality with the wild exaggeration that “illegal aliens” take up a third of the cells in our prisons and jails. Dobbs also has plenty of time to host extremist guests like FAIR, the Minutemen, and controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who he called “a model for the whole country.”
Dobbs’ incessant attacks on Latinos and immigrants have earned him a following among nativists and those who share his extreme views.
For the most part, Dobbs has skated by on the tacit approval of CNN which has banked on the fact that many of the Latinos who bear the brunt of his systematic media assaults–Spanish-speaking immigrants–were unaware of the bile that Dobbs regularly spews. Interestingly, CNN does not translate Dobbs for broadcast on its CNN en Espanol network.
All of that has led Novato and his organization to with other Latino organizations throughout the United States demanding that CNN get rid of Dobbs. In the coming weeks, CNN President Jon Klein will be inundated by a growing national chorus of calls from www.bastadobbs.com and others demanding his network to stop promoting Dobbs’ brand of “news.” It should be interesting to watch if and how CNN responds to this call to live up to their tagline of “the most trusted name in news.” This movement to dump Dobbs marks a critical shift in the direction of Latino activism in the United States.