Hispanic congressmen demand corporate action against CNN host
The anti-immigration views of CNN host Lou Dobbs have made him a darling in the ratings but a nemesis among US Latinos, whose frustration has risen to the Washington corridors of power.
After their requests for a meeting with the chief executive of CNN's parent company were rebuffed, Latino members of Congress condemned the TV network for failing to recognise the "potentially dangerous" consequences of Dobbs's "divisive commentary".
Dobbs has become a sensation thanks to his populist outbursts against undocumented immigrants, whom he calls "aliens" and accuses of "invading" America to steal jobs.
The TV host also has targeted the Democratic presidential candidates, naming one segment "Hillary's hypocrisy" and describing Barack Obama's endorsement by Latino governor and former Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson as "pandering to ethnocentric special interests".
Joe Baca, the chairman of the congressional Hispanic caucus, told the Guardian that CNN's parent company should be held accountable for the content of programmes the network airs.
"Words matter and words have power. One-sided rhetoric can lead other programs to cite opinions as fact and adopt polarising word choices as the standard," Baca, whose caucus is influential within the Democratic party, said.
Baca and Latino senator Robert Menendez, a close ally of Hillary Clinton, said they were "deeply offended" by the lack of response from Time Warner, which owns CNN, to their criticism of Dobbs.
"It is additionally offensive that you [failed to respond] on a topic as important and sensitive as your company's treatment and portrayal of Latinos in this country," the two members of Congress wrote to Time Warner chief executive Jeff Bewkes last week.
Despite its political clout, the Hispanic caucus is unlikely to succeed in reining in the popular Dobbs. The president of CNN offered Baca and Menendez a meeting but noted that Time Warner "never interferes with the editorial decision-making of its news operations".
Earlier this month, Dobbs's televised criticism of Pope Benedict XVI for urging the US to adopt a compassionate immigration policy - which the host dubbed "bad manners" - sparked the ire of Catholic groups on both the left and right but brought no ramifications.
La Raza, a grassroots Latino group, also launched a campaign earlier this year called We Can Stop the Hate, attempting to curb anti-immigration TV hosts' misinformation and aggression.
However, the Hispanic caucus has a record of successfully pressing for greater deference to their concerns in the media. Filmmaker Ken Burns agreed to add recognition of Latino soldiers to his World War II documentary, The War, after meeting with Hispanic members of Congress last year.