Saturday, October 24, 2009

CNN Special on Latinos Stokes Debate Over Dobbs


Instead of being simply a draw for Hispanic viewers, CNN’s four-hour documentary, “Latino in America,” turned into a political rallying cry for activist groups who are calling on the cable news channel to fire Lou Dobbs, a veteran anchor with well-known views on immigration.

An array of minorities held small protests in New York and other cities on Wednesday, the first night of CNN’s presentation. They are trying to highlight what they say are years of lies about immigration by Mr. Dobbs, who anchors the 7 p.m. hour on CNN.

CNN, a unit of Time Warner, has not commented on the protests or covered them on its news programs. One of the activists featured in the documentary said she tried to raise what she called Mr. Dobbs’s “hatred” on one of the channel’s news programs Wednesday, but her remarks were cut from the interview.

The anti-Dobbs campaign has, however, drawn considerable attention in the Spanish-language press; the Thursday front page of the New York newspaper El Diario featured a red slash mark through Mr. Dobbs’s face and the word “hipocresia,” Spanish for “hypocrisy,” atop the illustration.

The hypocrisy, critics say, lies in CNN’s decision to woo Hispanic viewers with a prime-time documentary while still giving Mr. Dobbs a nightly forum. Roberto Lovato, a founding member of Presente.org, a Latino advocacy group, said in a statement, “We won’t allow the network to court us as viewers while, at the same time, they allow Dobbs to spread lies and misinformation about us each night.”

Separately, Mr. Dobbs is also the target of a “Drop Dobbs” campaign by the progressive groups NDN, Media Matters for America, and others. That effort started after Mr. Dobbs repeatedly raised questions about President Obama’s birth certificate.

There is no indication that the campaigns are affecting CNN’s revenue, but they are highlighting Mr. Dobbs’s status as an outlier at the channel, which has sought to position itself as a middle ground of sorts in the fractious cable news arena. Mr. Dobbs is known to be exploring an exit from CNN, and he is viewed as a potential hire for the Fox Business Network, an upstart channel owned by the News Corporation.

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