Media Blog

Lou Dobbs vs. The NY Times

Lou Dobbs defends himself from NY Times columnist David Leonhardt.

An excerpt from Leonhardt’s column:

I have been somewhat taken aback about how shameless he has been during the whole dispute, so I spent some time reading transcripts from old episodes of “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” The way he handled leprosy, it turns out, is not all that unusual.
For one thing, Mr. Dobbs has a somewhat flexible relationship with reality. He has said, for example, that one-third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants. That’s wrong, too. According to the Justice Department, 6 percent of prisoners in this country are noncitizens (compared with 7 percent of the population). For a variety of reasons, the crime rate is actually lower among immigrants than natives.
Second, Mr. Dobbs really does give airtime to white supremacy sympathizers. Ms. Cosman, who is now deceased, was a lawyer and Renaissance studies scholar, never a medical doctor or a leprosy expert. She gave speeches in which she said that Mexican immigrants had a habit of molesting children. Back in their home villages, she would explain, rape was not as serious a crime as cow stealing. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps a list of other such guests from “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”

And an excerpt from Dobbs’s response:

He wrote that I said that “One third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants.” That isn’t what I said. I didn’t say anything close to it.
We reported that one-third of the federal prison population three and a half years ago were “non-citizens.” The columnist said the number was 6 percent. The exact number of the year in question was 29.3 percent for fiscal year 2001. And by the way, we’re putting up links on our Web site, loudobbs.com, so you can check the numbers for yourself.
I introduced that report three and a half years ago by saying the number of illegal immigrants in our prisons was increasing and the financial burden rising. Well, we had to go back and check, and because our correspondent no longer has his notes to support that statement, that the number of illegal immigrants within a prison population of non-citizens, I have to retract it here tonight, and I apologize to you for the necessity of doing so. But like I said, I do make mistakes.

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