Immigration

By Lou Dobbs' Math, He's Only 6 Years Old

|

In a New York Times media column disguised as an economics column, David Leonhardt slams Lou Dobbs for refusing to forthrightly correct his whopper about immigrant-borne leprosy. As Dave Weigel noted earlier this month, Dobbs' CNN show exaggerated the number of U.S. leprosy cases by an order of magnitude, confusing 7,000 cases over 30 years with 7,000 cases over three years:

According to a woman CNN identified as a medical lawyer named Dr. Madeleine Cosman, leprosy was on the march. As [Christine] Romans, the CNN correspondent, relayed: "There were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years."

"Incredible," Mr. Dobbs replied.

Appalling as this error was, Dobbs' attitude when confronted with it was even more galling:

When Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" sat down to interview Mr. Dobbs on camera, she mentioned the report and told him that there didn't seem to be much evidence for it.

"Well, I can tell you this," he replied. "If we reported it, it's a fact."

With that Orwellian chestnut, Mr. Dobbs escalated the leprosy dispute into a full-scale media brouhaha. The next night, back on his own program, the same CNN correspondent who had done the earlier report, Christine Romans, repeated the 7,000 number [saying, "Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy"], and Mr. Dobbs added that, if anything, it was probably an underestimate. A week later, the Southern Poverty Law Center—the civil rights group that has long been critical of Mr. Dobbs—took out advertisements in The New York Times and USA Today demanding that CNN run a correction.

Finally, Mr. Dobbs played host to two top officials from the law center on his program, "Lou Dobbs Tonight," where he called their accusations outrageous and they called him wrong, unfair and "one of the most popular people on the white supremacist Web sites."

Leonhardt, who pronounces himself "taken aback [by] how shameless he has been during the whole dispute," pressed Dobbs to admit he was "flat-out wrong":

He admitted as much, sort of. I read him Ms. Romans's comment—the one with the word "suddenly" in it—and he replied, "I think that is wrong." He then went on to say that as far as he was concerned, he had corrected the mistake by later broadcasting another report, on the same night as his on-air confrontation with the Southern Poverty Law Center officials. This report mentioned that leprosy had peaked in 1983.

Of course, he has never acknowledged on the air that his program presented false information twice. Instead, he lambasted the officials from the law center for saying he had. Even yesterday, he spent much of our conversation emphasizing that there really were 7,000 cases in the leprosy registry, the government's 30-year database. Mr. Dobbs is trying to have it both ways.

The striking thing about Dobbs' arrogant refusal to correct a mistake is that it's just the sort of attitude that TV populists like him ascribe (not without justice) to media "elites" like Leonhardt's employer.

Update: As Dave Weigel points out, Dobbs today apologized for using Madeleine Cosman as a source.

NEXT: Lou Dobbs Cures Leprosy

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Notably, Dobbs does not say that the statistic is wrong — he says it was wrong for him to rely on Cosman.

    I loved this graph: “And the columnist writes that I suggested that new immigration reform bill would be the first step to a North American union. Nope. What I did say is that the proposed legislation, favored by President Bush and Senator Kennedy and others who are misguided, contains language in Section 413 that, if approved by Congress, would endorse and legitimize the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which is the foundation of this administration’s efforts to create a North American union, and which would further threaten, in my opinion, our national sovereignty.”

    Uh…so if the law is passed, it would legitimize the “foundation” for a “North American union”…that ISN’T a “first step” toward such a union? What an idiot.

    I don’t know what’s more galling — his inability to simple admit to established facts, or his specious fight for a “middle class” that he’s not a member of and isn’t even close to being what he thinks it is.

  2. Uh…so if the law is passed, it would legitimize the “foundation” for a “North American union”…that ISN’T a “first step” toward such a union? What an idiot.

    Uh, no, it would not be the “first step”. Many consider the NAFTA treaty to have been the first step; there is also the small matter of the Trans-Texas Corridor project.

  3. Uh…so if the law is passed, it would legitimize the “foundation” for a “North American union”…that ISN’T a “first step” toward such a union?

    Why would a North American union be a bad idea, anyway? If your goal is really to liberalize the movement of goods and labor throughout the continent, it makes a lot more sense to formally normalize conditions across the 3 countries rather than just throwing open the borders and saying a Hail Mary.

    At least you have an opportunity to negotiate things like reciprocal rights, a consistent body of laws, security – and, of course, a rational border and immigration policy for the entire continent.

    I suppose the downside would be putting a larger territory under one centralized authority, rather than encouraging decentralization.

    Arguments pro and con?

  4. I suppose the downside would be putting a larger territory under one centralized authority, rather than encouraging decentralization.

    You could creating a weaker central authority with only specifically enumerated powers, with most of the power reserved to the states and the people.

    naah, that would never work.

  5. No argument from me, Pig Mannix, but that last point about who is the controlling police-power authority is the biggest one.

    Should make for some pretty good violence and labor upheaval from zero-sum minded politicos and ethnic proles, expecially the ones that subscribe to the the class-baiting, fairy-tale macroeconomics of Barry “Universal Health Care” Obama and John “Walmart is the Root of All Evil” Edwards …

  6. Paraphrasing the comments above: “There is no NorthAmericanUnion… it’s just a myth… but, a NorthAmericanUnion wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all…”

    Meanwhile, Freedom is about to get even more free!

    A powerful think tank chaired by former Sen. Sam Nunn and guided by trustees including Richard Armitage, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Harold Brown, William Cohen and Henry Kissinger, is in the final stages of preparing a report to the White House and U.S. Congress on the benefits of integrating the U.S., Mexico and Canada into one political, economic and security bloc.

    Just keep repeating to yourself:

    “The NorthAmericanUnion is just a myth… MichaelMedved is right… The NorthAmericanUnion is just a myth… Dobbs is paranoid… The NorthAmericanUnion is just a myth… a NorthAmericanUnion wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all… the NorthAmericanUnion is just a myth…”

    Repeat this as well:

    “Reason Magazine doesn’t have the ability to look behind the curtain to try to understand why the NYT would smear Dobbs… Reason Magazine doesn’t have the ability to look behind the curtain to try to understand why the NYT would smear Dobbs…”

  7. Maybe his years start on February 29th.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_RLh4JkJR4

  8. On the trans-North America government notion note that the U.S., Canada and Mexico are all federal republics. Indeed, in a number of areas Canadian provinces and Mexican states have more power than American states.

  9. Just think of the cheap housing that would open up in Mexico. It would be glorious.

  10. Just think of the cheap housing that would open up in Mexico. It would be glorious.

    Hey, we already got “cheap housing” in the US – they’re called mobile ho…, er, manufactured housing. Wouldn’t you just love to live in one?

  11. Hey, we already got “cheap housing” in the US – they’re called mobile ho…, er, manufactured housing. Wouldn’t you just love to live in one?

    If I could get one on the beach in Malibu like this guy’s, I’d be all for it.

  12. I’ve often wondered how things would have turned out if we had kept Mexico after we conquered it back in the manifest destiny days.

  13. I’ve often wondered how things would have turned out if we had kept Mexico after we conquered it

    We’d have gained 2,600,000 sq miles of shitty scrub desert, and had to take on the entire country of Mexico as ‘American citizens’. Or maybe 1/2 citizens, since we still had slavery at the time, and the annexation of Texas was partly to give slaveholders territory to expand into anyway. So we’d have made mexico a slave state, and made Winfield Scott the president/provincial governor. The following civil war would last 10years, Grant would drink himself to death in depression, and the South would win, leaving the country a fractured mess. Whee!

  14. Speaking of the Trans-Texas Corridor project, guess which famous, former New York City Mayor and prospective GOP presidential candidate is up to his armpits in that deal? That’s right – Guilianni and his “Houston” law firm. No wonder a certain South Texas congressman’s bid for the presidency is being kept marginalized.

  15. jw: I don’t care what “many consider,” I care what Dobbs thinks since he’s the one defending his own words. And Dobbs thinks the law would essentially solidify the foundation. Nothing is more “first step” than the foundation.

    [i]Why would a North American union be a bad idea, anyway?[/i]

    So long as Mexican and Canadian judicial opinions don’t have precedential influence on our courts…

  16. North American Union? What ever happened to the New World Order (or should I say, NewWorldOrder).

  17. I dunno, Gilmore. We actually did take over half of Mexico’s territory, most of which had little to no impact on the subsequent Civil War. Of some interest is the fact that very few Mexicans elected to move back to Mexico.

    Probably an interesting alternative history novel in there somewhere.

  18. “move back” = “not move,” RC.

    Maybe something other than Anglo-philia going on there.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.