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Dobbs: An answer for my critics

By Lou Dobbs
CNN
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Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears weekly on CNN.com. This commentary was first broadcast on "Lou Dobbs Tonight"

NEW YORK (CNN) -- I've been, over the years, because of our reporting on controversial issues and my strongly held beliefs on those issues, attacked, and usually pretty vigorously, by both the left wing and the right wing of this nation's media, both mainstream and otherwise, and of course the politicians that form the extremes of our political spectrum.

As a matter of fact, I'm regularly attacked by the right wing -- the biggest business lobbyists in the country, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Bush administration -- for my criticism of so-called free trade policies and outsourcing.

I'm regularly attacked by the left wing as well -- the Southern Poverty Law Center, The New York Times, The Nation, MALDEF and MEChA -- for my opposition to illegal immigration.

Today, The New York Times published a column that picks up where an advertisement -- a paid advertisement in The Times, paid for by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- left off two weeks ago.

Today's New York Times column is primarily a personal attack on me, focusing on an ad-lib on the set of this broadcast uttered more than two years ago by Christine Romans on the number of cases of leprosy in this country -- an unscripted ad-lib, not a report by the way. We'd 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.

The second issue, accusing us of overstating the number of non-citizens in our federal prisons. That number reported on this broadcast three-and-a-half years ago.

Now, no one hates making a mistake, I assure you, more than I do. And on this broadcast, we do make mistakes -- not often, mind you -- but certainly enough to frustrate me mightily, and with barely tolerable frequency.

But today's scurrilous personal attack from The New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, carrying the water of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also has the facts wrong.

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.

Let's look at a few other issues, however, raised by The New York Times, including that columnist's statement that none of the enemies of the middle class, he said I said, "play a bigger role than illegal immigrants."

Well, again, that's just not true. I've made perfectly clear over the years that corporate power, expressed by lobbyists spending billions of dollars each year in Washington to influence both political parties and public policy, represents the greatest single threat to this nation's middle class.

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.

And the columnist writes that I suggested that new immigration reform bill would be the first step to a North American union. Nope. What I did say is that the proposed legislation, favored by President Bush and Senator Kennedy and others who are misguided, contains language in Section 413 that, if approved by Congress, would endorse and legitimize the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which is the foundation of this administration's efforts to create a North American union, and which would further threaten, in my opinion, our national sovereignty.

Well, as I said tonight at the outset, I don't like personal attacks from both the left and the right wings, but I'm getting kind of used to it. I will assure you that we'll continue to report on the nonpartisan independent reality that is too often overwhelmed by the ideologues in our national media, the left wing and the right wing.

And I'll guarantee you this: Those attacks from the left and the right will continue. They perhaps may get even a little more energetic. And as long as they continue to do so, you and I can rest assured that we're doing more right than wrong on this broadcast.


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Lou Dobbs says he expects attacks on him from both the left and right to continue.

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