Lou Dobbs vs. La Raza

Does featuring Minutemen on his show make Dobbs a purveyor of hate speech? And should the man be surprised that some critics call him a bigot?

Published February 5, 2008 9:03PM (EST)

How the World Works wishes it could say that Monday's showdown between CNN's Lou Dobbs and La Raza's Janet Murguia was enthralling television -- in the sense of two impassioned advocates going at each other hammer-and-tongs and by doing so, enlightening their audience as to the difficult-to-resolve subtleties of a thorny, hotly contested issue.

Quite the contrary: The 11-minute clip is riveting solely because it demonstrates the pathetic state of what passes for "debate" on controversial topics as presented via mainstream television. Over and over again, Dobbs accuses La Raza of "reprehensibly" attempting to squelch the First Amendment and get him fired while pursuing its pro-amnesty-for-illegal-alien agenda. Over and over again, Janet Murguia attempts the risky gambit of delineating a dividing line between free speech and hate speech, and demands that CNN stop giving prominence to those who thrive on dehumanizing and demonizing illegal immigrants. Oh, and sparks fly over the question of exactly how many times Lou Dobbs has characterized illegal immigration as a public health threat.

Neither person came to hear the other, neither person has a chance in hell of convincing the other -- but depending on which side of the issue you fall upon, both no doubt come off as heroes to their respective fan bases.

How the World Works takes a very jaundiced view toward those who want to squelch others' speech by declaring it hate speech, even if we are sympathetic to Murguia's argument that allowing founders of the Minutemen copious airtime may well contribute to acts of violence committed against Hispanics.

But Lou Dobbs' repeated assertion that he is not a bigot -- as if it was completely outrageous and nutty that anyone could even think such a thing -- rings a bit hollow when one considers just how many times he has featured the likes of Minutemen Project co-founders Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox on his television show. Bigot, perhaps not. Agent of intolerance? Kind of hard to question.

The full 11-minute video clip is accessible from CNN. But you won't miss too much if you watch just the last few minutes:

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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First Amendment Globalization How The World Works Immigration Immigration Reform Lou Dobbs