DOBBISTRY….David Leonhardt has a pretty brutal takedown of Lou Dobbs in the New York Times today, much of which focuses on Dobbs’s claim that we’ve seen a meteoric rise in leprosy cases over the past three years thanks to a tidal surge of illegal immigration. Here’s the nutshell summary: two years ago a correspondent on his show said, “There were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years.” Lesley Stahl challenged him on this a few weeks ago on 60 Minutes, and the next night Dobbs had on the same correspondent, who repeated the claim: “Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy.”

Now, this turns out not to be true. It’s 7,000 cases over the past 30 years, and the annual incidence of leprosy in America has been both low and fairly stable during that period. So Dobbs was wrong.

But that’s not really the most astonishing part of this. A few days later Dobbs had on a couple of representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center who accused him of whipping up anti-immigrant hysteria by focusing on disease and crime. It turns out that Dobbs actually had a decent comeback to that charge: he claims that out of 750 reports on illegal immigration over the past few years, only six have focused on disease and crime. And to make that stick all he had to do was fess up about the leprosy error and move on. Instead he gave mere sophistry a bad name by claiming that he had never said those 7,000 cases were new cases of leprosy. Read and be amazed:

DOBBS: Mark, Richard, gentlemen, you know we never said they were new cases. What we said in point of fact was that there are 7,000 cases on the active — active leprosy register.

….COHEN: Just wait, Lou. Just wait. You said or your reporter Christine Romans said on May seventh that Hansen’s was a disease so rare that in 40 years only 900 people were afflicted. Suddenly in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy.

DOBBS: Right.

COHEN: I think that makes it — that’s a pretty strong implication that the number has jumped from 900 to 7,000 or over 7,000 in a very short period of time. You were wrong to claim that.

DOBBS: Let’s listen and I would ask you to listen as well along with our viewers to exactly what Christine Romans said and if we could roll that, please.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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.


DOBBS: That report, as you gentlemen know, was done two years ago….So we did not say we quite agree that there were 7,000 new cases. We said there were 7,000 on the registry.

Wow. Karl Rove could take lessons from this guy. Just amazing.

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