Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dobbs on the rampage

-- by Dave

So how does CNN's Lou Dobbs handle the latest round of criticism regarding his obdurate claim that he's been perfectly accurate in his reportage on immigration?

Well, rather than finally issue a correction, as he should have, he's continuing to wrestle the facts and obscure what he actually reported with yet another broadcast attacking his critics (see here for a breakout of the transcript). Though along the way, he manages to make a confession or two -- of sorts.

Note that, for Dobbs, this is all about him and not his misbegotten reportage:
Today's New York Times column is primarily a personal attack on me, focuses on an ad-lib on the set of this broadcast uttered more than two years ago by Christine Romans on a number of cases of leprosy in this country. An unscripted ad-lib, not a report by the way -- we've never done a report on leprosy until we had to set this record straight a couple of weeks ago. That's over four and a half years of reporting on that issue.

Actually, Dobbs reasserted the false statistics as "factual" as recently as three weeks ago. And nowhere in this entire diatribe does Dobbs clear the air and explain to his audience that the leprosy statistics he cited -- 7,000 cases -- referred to a thirty-year period, not a three-year period. He claims that a separate report did so, but if it did, it was (a) buried, and (b) completely inadequate as a correction.

Dobbs goes on to actually confess that he was wrong to use Madeleine Cosman as a source:
That columnist also said I gave air time to white supremacists, and mentions one by name, Madeleine Cosman, who wrote the article that Christine Romans used as a source for her later leprosy statement.

The fact is, I made a mistake, and I've said we would never have used her as a source if we had known of her controversial background two years ago, at the time of the offending ad-lib. But the columnist fails to note that his own paper wrote a glowing obituary of Madeleine Cosman when she died last year.

Oh, really? When he did he say this?

Because just last May 7, this was what Dobbs and Romans said:
DOBBS: And there was a question about some of your comments, Christine. Following one of your reports, I told Leslie Stahl, "We don't make up numbers." And I will tell everybody here again tonight, I stand 100 percent behind what you said.

ROMANS: That's right, Lou. We don't make up numbers here. This is what we reported.

We reported: "It's interesting, because the woman in our piece told us that there were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years. Leprosy in this country."

I was quoting Dr. Madeleine Cosman, a respected medical lawyer and medical historian. Writing in The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, she said: "Hansen's disease" -- that's the other modern name, I guess, for leprosy -- "Hansen's disease was so rare in America that in 40 years only 900 people were afflicted. Suddenly, in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy" -- Lou.

DOBBS: It's remarkable that this -- whatever, confusion or confoundment over 7,000 cases. They actually keep a registry of cases of leprosy. And the fact that it rose was because of -- one assumes because we don't know for sure -- but two basic influences: unscreened illegal immigrants coming into this country primarily from South Asia, and the -- secondly, far better reporting.

ROMANS: That's what Dr. Cosman told us, Lou.

DOBBS: And, you know, in talking with a number of people, it's also very clear, no one knows, but nearly everyone suspects, there are far more cases of that. It is also, I think, interesting, and I think important to say, one of the reasons we screen people coming into this country is to deal with communicable diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis. The fact is, if we would just screen successfully, all of those diseases can be treated effectively, efficiently, and relatively quickly.

ROMANS: And that's why we raised the question in the first place, asking some tough questions about this. And, you know, 7,000 cases -- active cases of leprosy -- by no means is 11 million, as [Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project director] Mark Potok suggested.

DOBBS: But you can't say that to people so interested in the truth, as Mr. Potok obviously isn't.

So, when exactly did Dobbs admit that using Cosman was a mistake? Or is he just obfuscating again?

Finally, simply admitting that Cosman was a bad source for the story isn't enough; as a journalist, it requires a broader examination of the story itself and its factual underpinnings. This was the same case when Dobbs ran a map taken from white supremacists and then simply apologized for using them as a source, when in fact the entire story was built out of race-baiting garbage from precisely the same sources.

But just as Dobbs' fraudulent "Aztlan" reportage was never corrected, neither, evidently, will be his fraudulent leprosy reportage.

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