Feeling Dobbs-related embarrassment

FEELING DOBBS-RELATED EMBARRASSMENT…. It’s a fine line CNN is trying to walk. On the one hand, it pays Lou Dobbs handsomely to host a nightly news program, which Dobbs uses as a platform to denounce Hispanic communities. On the other, CNN wants to present itself as concerned about those same communities.

Instead of being simply a draw for Hispanic viewers, CNN’s four-hour documentary, “Latino in America,” turned into a political rallying cry for activist groups who are calling on the cable news channel to fire Lou Dobbs, a veteran anchor with well-known views on immigration.

An array of minorities held small protests in New York and other cities on Wednesday, the first night of CNN’s presentation. They are trying to highlight what they say are years of lies about immigration by Mr. Dobbs, who anchors the 7 p.m. hour on CNN.

CNN, a unit of Time Warner, has not commented on the protests or covered them on its news programs. One of the activists featured in the documentary said she tried to raise what she called Mr. Dobbs’s “hatred” on one of the channel’s news programs Wednesday, but her remarks were cut from the interview.

Now, if you’ve ever done a pre-recorded television interview, you know it can be a little frustrating — you’ll answer all kinds of questions, and the discussion will last quite a while, but when it airs, you’re lucky to get 10 seconds of airtime. Naturally, those interviewed for “Latino in America” found that very little of what they actually said ended up on CNN.

But in this case, there’s a little more to it.

Isabel Garcia, a civil rights lawyer who was featured in “Latino in America” and organized an anti-Dobbs protest in Tucson on Wednesday, said that CNN edited her comments about the anchor out of an interview.

She had expected a 15-minute conversation about immigration opposite Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., and a staunch supporter in immigration enforcement, on the prime-time program “Anderson Cooper 360.” During the taped interview Wednesday, she said she made several unprompted comments about Mr. Dobbs.

She said she called Mr. Arpaio and Mr. Dobbs “the two most dangerous men to our communities,” and said that “because of them, our communities are being terrorized in a real way.” She also asserted that CNN was “promoting lies and hate about our community” by broadcasting Mr. Dobbs’s program. The comments were not included when the interview was shown Wednesday night.

“They heavily deleted what I did get to say,” she said.

The crux of what Garcia had to say specifically dealt with a CNN host, so CNN decided those comments had to be left on the cutting room floor. The network that’s had to cover for Dobbs’ tendencies before continues to feel at least some embarrassment.

Matt Yglesias’ suggestion is a good one: “[I]f CNN wants to stand by Dobbs then, fine, they should stand by Dobbs. But if they want to stand by Dobbs then they should stand by Dobbs and feature him prominently in their four-hour ‘Latino in America’ documentary. After all, from what you can see watching the network day-to-day the executives at CNN think Dobbs has a credible and important perspective on this issue. Instead, they just kind of want to sweep the crazy uncle under the rug for the purposes of a big special, and then trot him back out again when everything’s back to normal.”

It’s an unsustainable relationship.