Several Hispanic groups are calling on CNN to drop talk-show host and frequent illegal immigrant critic Lou Dobbs, who is broadcasting his radio show from a conference put on by what some activists refer to as a "hate group."
Dobbs, whose wife is Mexican-American, is among 45 radio talk show hosts who attended the rally hosted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
FAIR has been branded a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which asserts, among other things, that FAIR has ties to white supremacists. FAIR, meanwhile, vigorously rejects the center's label.
In any case, the event in question is the annual "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" rally in Washington D.C., in which the 45 talk-show hosts and other immigration hard-liners are calling on legislators to ensure that illegal immigrants do not receive amnesty.
The racially charged controversy surrounding Dobbs has been simmering for months.
In March, Dobbs publicly apologized on his CNN show for calling the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce "an organization that is interested in the export of American capital and production to Mexico and Mexico's export of drugs and illegal aliens to the United States."
More recently, he has taken heat for giving airtime to a fringe movement known as the "birthers," who insist, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that President Obama was born in Kenya.
The coalition pushing for Dobbs's ouster calls itself DropDobbs.org. It includes The Hispanic Institute, Dolores Huerta Foundation, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National Puerto Rican Coalition and the National Council of La Raza.
Today, NCLR, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, issued a press release in which the group included a quote from a letter it wrote to CNN.
"While Lou Dobbs, as a private citizen, has every right to speak at whatever event he pleases," said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía in a letter to CNN CEO Jim Walton. "As a representative of CNN's 'best political news team in America,' his appearance provides FAIR with the legitimacy of the CNN brand and signals an intensification of the lopsided coverage Dobbs' show has provided during the debate over immigration reform."
NCLR contends that FAIR founder John Tanton has compared immigrants to "bacteria." It also blasts FAIR for receiving -- between 1982 and 1994 -- around $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a group that has stirred controversy for bankrolling studies concluding that IQs vary according to race. (The Southern Poverty Law Center has also labeled the Pioneer Fund a hate group.)
On Tuesday, FAIR spokesman Ira Mehlman fired back, saying the Southern Poverty Law Center has its own issues.
"Who made SPLC the arbiter of who is and is not a hate group?" Mehlman said, speaking to HispanicBusiness.com. "The SPLC has been discredited by a lot of people -- and not Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. The Nation (a liberal publication) called them a bunch of hucksters who hype hate to line their own pockets."
(The aim of the April 29 piece was to highlight the ironic dilemma faced by an organization dedicated to fighting racism at a time when the influence of the radical right appears to be waning.)
Mehlman added that the "Drop Dobbs" camp is merely trying to "shut down the debate."
"They are going after everyone who is opposed to their point of view on this issue, trying to brand everyone as somehow beyond the pale," he said.
Mehlman said the Obama administration has turned a deaf ear to the people who oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"The purpose (of the event) is to provide a voice to the majority of the American people, who simply oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants," he said.
Finally, Mehlman rejects the idea that FAIR is anti-immigrant, let alone racist.
"There is a very important difference between immigration policy, which is a policy, and immigrants, who are human beings," he said.
Other groups in the coalition include Media Matters for America, Center for Community Change, Center for New Community, NDN, Southern Poverty Law Center and America's Voice.
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