In defense of Lou Dobbs

Nasty, nativist and pandering to the worst in America? Sure. But overstepping the bounds of the First Amendment? Uh, nope.

Published April 29, 2008 8:38PM (EDT)

Regular readers of How the World Works know that I am no fan of Lou Dobbs and his pandering politics of hostility. He takes immensely complicated issues and turns them into vile cartoons, all the while appealing to the worst isolationist and nativist instincts of Americans.

But hey, this is the United States of America, and free speech is our calling card. Lou Dobbs has a right not just to his opinion, but to cash in on it as best he can. And members of Congress should be very, very careful before accusing any broadcaster of going too far.

Roll Call reported on Monday that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is on the warpath against Dobbs. On Friday, the CHC sent a letter to Time-Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes claiming that "the news network is skewed in favor of anti-immigration efforts."

"We are deeply offended that you did not take the time or effort to respond to a request from twenty Members of the United States House of Representatives and a United States Senator..." the lawmakers wrote. "It is additionally offensive that you did so on a topic as important and sensitive as your company's treatment and portrayal of Latinos in this country."

CHC chairman Joe Baca, D-Calif., told Roll Call that the criticism of Dobbs "does not infringe on the First Amendment."

"You still have freedom of speech, but you've got to put out the facts and information. He lavishes it in a negative connotation, and that goes beyond freedom of speech. He's a news broadcaster and he should be fair and objective," Baca said. "He oversteps his bounds on the freedom of speech."

If there's one thing that I can think of that's worse than daily doses of Lou Dobbs' outrage, it's lawmakers telling journalists that they're "overstepping" their bounds.

By Andrew Leonard

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

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