CNN approves hosts comments about Hispanics

CNN host stirs controversy over Hispanic chamber comments
by Victor Manuel Ramos, Orlando Sentinel, Mar 16, 2009

CNN show host Lou Dobbs is well known for denouncing illegal immigration on his show. He has a following among people who favor strict enforcement of immigration laws, but has been criticized by Hispanic and immigrant advocates who think his show fosters hate against immigrants.

But last week Dobbs was very upset by something else. He could not understand why President Barack Obama would speak about education reform to members of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a group in Washington, D.C. that advocates on behalf of Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S.

Commenting on Obama’s meeting with Hispanic entrepreneurs, Dobbs went off saying:

"I don’t know what’s happened to this White House, but the wheels appear to have come completely off here over the last several days. Making a decision to talk about a national initiative on education from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which is effectively 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. This is crazy stuff."

America’s Voice, the same immigrant advocacy group that has been on the case of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio over his local enforcement of immigration law, has taken Dobbs’ commentary as evidence that the show host has gone mad.

“Lou Dobbs is right about one thing. This is crazy stuff. Apparently when Lou saw the word ‘Hispanic’ in the name of the organization hosting the event, he went loco,” said Frank Sharry, director of America’s Voice. “The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is hardly a controversial group. It represents over 2.5 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States, including many small enterprises that are the backbone of our economy.”

The Hispanic chamber itself also responded to the comments, saying its members were “baffled and disappointed” by Dobbs’ comments, which were broadcast to a wide audience on CNN.

Why shouldn’t the president of the United States, activists ask, meet with a chamber representing the country’s largest minority group?

“To suggest that it is out of place for President Obama to speak on a national issue before our organization, or any Hispanic group, is just absurd,” said David C. Lizárraga, chair of the chamber’s board. “We are all Americans, and in these troubling economic times face the same challenges.”

And the statement went on: “The USHCC represents individuals who live with and demonstrate every day the entrepreneurial spirit that regularly reenergizes the American Dream. It was completely misleading and inappropriate for Mr. Lou Dobbs to infer that Hispanics should not play a role on the American stage, and both he and his employer should publicly retract this uninformed and misleading attack on a proud American community.”

Víctor Manuel Ramos can be reached at vramos@orlandosentinel.com. He is also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/vmramos.

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