Open Letter To Lou Dobbs

Good grief, Lou – you are supposed to be a journalist, or at least play one on TV.

I know that CNN likes to try to position itself as the “only cable news outlet still doing journalism,” positioned between what CNN describes as the poles of FOX News on the right and MSNBC. But with your recent foray into simple lunacy with the “birther” nonsense, you have become the ONLY major news figure on any channel EXCEPT FOX to even entertain – let alone embrace – the ludicrous and discredited claims of the birther movement.

What’s worse, you have apparently decided to abdicate the responsibility of your job in order to do so. You are a journalist. That means you (at least theoretically) have a responsibility to the truth, or at least to the facts. And a further responsibility not to knowingly air false information, or information you yourself have not verified.

I am certain that CNN has employees in Hawaii, but if not, if the “birther” nonsense is enough of a newsworthy story for you to air, then it is certainly a newsworthy enough story for you to personally fly out to Hawaii and check the facts for yourself. Have you done so? Don’t bother to answer; I know you have not.

The facts of this story have been quite clear for some time: President Obama was born when he says he was, in Hawaii, which at that time was already a US state. Period. A certification of live birth has been repeatedly viewed by members of the media, and high-resolution photographs showing every portion of the document have been available online for some time.

Yet recently on your show, you claimed unctuously that you “believed Obama is a citizen.” Why, how noble! You “believe” Obama to be a citizen (and thus eligible to be President)? Like you believe barbecued ribs to be the best meal in existence or believe in the divinity of Jesus? My, that’s SO very generous of you.

In reality, Obama’s American citizenship, as I have a strong feeling you know full well, is NOT a matter of belief in something which cannot be proven, it is a FACT. A fact not unlike this fact: “Elvis Presley is dead.”

Are there, out of the 316-odd million people in America, some small percentage who BELIEVE contrary to established fact, both in the case of Mr. Obama and Mr. Presley? Yes, there are. There are also people who believe they have been abducted by aliens, are the reincarnation of various historical figures, or that the government is trying to control us all through the use of invisible mind-rays, necessitating the wearing of brain-shielding hats made of tinfoil. Such people have always been with us, and likely always will be with us.

I guess I just never expected to see one of them – while still attempting to claim the mantle of respectable journalist (or at least of sage pundit) – befouling the broadcast of a major, previously-respectable cable news outlet with such lunacy, unless, I suppose, it was in a bemused “news of the weird” segment.

Let me stress one final time: the worst part in all of this is that you could easily have done what your job responsibilities require of you at any time throughout this process: you could have investigated these “birther” claims for yourself. Instead of hiding behind the laughably transparent veil of “you BELIEVE” and “some say…” you could have strengthened – instead of crippled – your reputation as a journalist worth watching by actually performing some basic journalism. I can think of only two reasons you would choose NOT to do so, in fact: one, that you have simply grown too complacent and smugly self-assured of the permanence of your own place in the firmament of cable news punditry that you feel no need to do any actual work which requires effort on your part, or two — that you actually agree with the Orly Taitzes of the birther conspiracy movement (in which case, your claim to “believe” Obama is a citizen would then have been a flat-out lie and deception). Neither possibility casts you in a particularly flattering light.

There is, I suppose, a remote chance that a third possibility could in fact be the real reason for your otherwise-inexplicable and recklessly career-endangering actions with regard to this whole “birther” issue. That is: you could simply have made a major goof. You could have had a momentary lapse of judgment regarding the legitimacy of the birthers’ claims, and put that lapse on display on your show once or twice. Then, stung by some of the criticism and push-back, you could have compounded your error by getting your hackles up and digging in to your indefensible position instead of choosing to admit the lapse, take your deserved lumps and move on, in the hope that you had not damaged your career and respectability too badly. It is indeed possible this might be the case. I hope it is, frankly, because it is the only one which explains your actions through simple human failings – which all of us are vulnerable to from time to time – instead of through either off-the-rails partisan lunacy (with attendant undercurrents of racism) or such sloppy practice of your craft that no serious news consumer should ever again consider your show as anything other than the visual equivalent of fishwrap.

Only you know which of the scenarios I’ve outlined are the real story. But I urge you, if the truth is that you just goofed and then dug your heels in, to reconsider doing the right thing – indeed, doing what the canons of your profession compel you to do. Because although most people not only can understand but also can forgive anyone, even a CNN anchor, for a missteps or human failings, if you continue to entrench your position, at some point in the very near future (if indeed it has not already happened), your refusal to admit error and try to make it right will mean that you own this colossal screw-up, as surely as if one of the other two possibilities I outlined were in fact the case all along.

For your sake, as well as CNN’s I hope you can pull your head out of…the sand, and remember what your job, and your responsibilities to your viewers and to the facts, is. Only that way will you be able to avoid further loss of respect and credibility. Do the right thing, Lou – repudiate Taitz and her discredited, disproven “birther” nonsense. Or else go whole-hawg, take off the mask of respectability, and show us your inner Glenn Beck.

The choice is – as it has always been – yours.



2 thoughts on “Open Letter To Lou Dobbs

  1. Good rant! I agree. I suspect that this “birther” issue with Dobbs has less to do with lazy journalism than with his real deeply-held sentiments that relate also to his “immigration” stances. I’ve felt that his immigration hang-up had more to do with which immigrants than with the illegal nature of the presence of some of them. I suspect that illegal immigrants from Sweden (for example) are more acceptable to him than those from Nicaragua. I could be wrong, but that is a sense I’ve gotten over the years. In 2006, he just went over the top with his nightly rants, so I greatly reduced my viewing of CNN. So long as Dobbs’ ratings remain stable or improve, there is little chance he will moderate his position or improve his journalistic performance. He doesn’t need to. Now, if his ratings drop off, he’ll either change his ways or his contract won’t be renewed. I wish Dobbs could read your excellent post.

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