Obama calls out two who stir up bad ***
By Ruben Navarrette Jr
Article Launched: 05/28/2008 01:33:14 AM PDT
Some of those who rail against illegal immigration can dish it out but
they can't take it. Since most illegal immigrants come from Mexico or
other parts of Latin America, critics sometimes say the sort of crude
things that give the debate its anti-Latino flavor. But let someone
call them on it and do they ever get defensive.
Speaking to supporters in Palm Beach last week, Barack Obama blasted a
couple of media personalities by name.
"A certain segment has basically been feeding a kind of xenophobia.
There's a reason why hate crimes against Hispanic people doubled last
year," Obama said. "If you have people like Lou Dobbs and Rush
Limbaugh ginning things up, it's not surprising that would happen."
It's about time. That some cable hosts and radio talkers grow their
ratings by pandering to the anti-immigrant crowd is no big secret.
Statistics speak loudly
Not surprisingly, supporters of Dobbs and Limbaugh went on the attack.
They insisted that Obama had overstated the statistics. In 2006, the
FBI reported that hate crimes against Hispanics increased 10 percent
from the previous year - 576 in 2006, 522 in 2005.
Nevertheless, Hispanics in 2006 were considered by the FBI as the No.
1 victim of hate crimes motivated by one's ethnicity or national
origin, and by a margin that was the highest since records have been
kept. Hispanics comprised 62.8 percent of victims of crimes motivated
by a bias toward a victim's
ethnicity or national origin.
So Obama was on the right track. In a world where the remnants of the
Ku Klux Klan use immigration to recruit new members and where
neo-Nazis have produced a repulsive computer game in which players
shoot Mexicans crossing the border and watch them explode, it's
obvious that these are hard times for Hispanics.
Limbaugh has made his share of sophomoric remarks about Hispanics and
immigration. Not long ago, he aired a parody - a group calling itself
Jose y los Ilegales singing "The Star-Spanglish Banner," complete with
Speedy Gonzales accents and offensive lyrics. He also took a shot at
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa by saying that, when they were
introduced - by former President Bill Clinton, no less - Limbaugh
thought the first Latino to serve as mayor of America's second-largest
city in more than a century was "maybe a shoeshine guy."
Still, there is a difference between sophomoric and sinister, and
Dobbs is more accurately described as the latter. In fact, Fox News'
Geraldo Rivera recently referred to Dobbs as a "hatemonger" for his
treatment of the immigration issue.
That also seems to be the view of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus,
which recently teamed up with a liberal group, Media Matters for
America, to issue a report examining how the immigration debate is
framed by cable news shows, including CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight." The
report found that these kinds of shows overflow "not just with
vitriol, but also with a series of myths that feed viewers' resentment
and fears, seemingly geared toward creating anti-immigrant hysteria."
Among the most common myths - that illegal immigrants commit more than
their share of crime, drain social services, and conspire to retake
the Southwest and return it to Mexico.
'Taco' crack draws ire
It also doesn't help Dobbs' reputation that, during an interview last
year on CBS's "60 Minutes," he recalled a meeting with the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus in which the CNN host claimed that the
representatives, in trying to establish if he was pro-Latino, asked
him if he "had ever eaten a taco . . . and an enchilada."
That crack inspired a letter of protest to CBS from Rep. Joe Baca,
D-San Bernardino, insisting that Dobbs' comments did not "reflect the
true nature of the discussion at our meeting." He called Dobbs'
juvenile and stereotypical remarks about Mexican food "just one
example of how he continues to belittle Hispanic members of Congress
and the Hispanic community."
So did Barack Obama go too far in criticizing media talkers who are
poisoning the public mood against Latinos? Are you kidding? He only
scratched the surface.
RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR. is a San Diego Union-Tribune columnist.