Dobbs Reaches Out to Latinos, With Politics in Mind

Peter Wallsten, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 25, 2009

Former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, pondering a future in politics, is trying to wipe away his image as an enemy of Latino immigrants by positioning himself as a champion of that fast-growing ethnic bloc.

Former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs reaches out to the Latino community, possibly ahead of a political run. WSJ reporter Peter Wallsten says Mr. Dobbs is even for legalizing the undocumented now.

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Mr. Dobbs is working to repair what a spokesman conceded is a glaring flaw: His reputation for antipathy toward Latino immigrants. In a little-noticed interview Friday, Mr. Dobbs told Spanish-language network Telemundo he now supports a plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers, a stance he long lambasted as an unfair “amnesty.”

Lou Dobbs, shown appearing on NBC’s ‘Today’ show last week, is working to repair his reputation for antipathy toward Latino immigrants.

“Whatever you have thought of me in the past, I can tell you right now that I am one of your greatest friends and I mean for us to work together,” he said in a live interview with Telemundo’s Maria Celeste. “I hope that will begin with Maria and me and Telemundo and other media organizations and others in this national debate that we should turn into a solution rather than a continuing debate and factional contest.”

Mr. Dobbs twice mentioned a possible legalization plan for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., saying at one point that “we need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants under certain conditions.”

Mr. Dobbs couldn’t be reached Tuesday. Spokesman Bob Dilenschneider said Mr. Dobbs draws a distinction between illegal immigrants who have committed crimes since arriving in the U.S. and those who are “living upright, positive and constructive lives” who should be “integrated” into society. He said Mr. Dobbs recognizes the political importance of Latinos and is “smoothing the water and clearing the air.”

After a career as a broadcaster and Internet entrepreneur, Mr. Dobbs turned himself into a populist firebrand, campaigning against labor outsourcing, free trade and immigration.

Mr. Dobbs left CNN saying he wanted to become an advocate. Immigration advocates, including Ms. Celeste, had long called for his ouster; critics in particular cite a 2007 report on his show that cited erroneous data suggesting illegal immigrants were tied to a spike in leprosy cases in the U.S. Mr. Dobbs told Ms. Celeste the report was a mistake, and blamed a reporter ad-libbing on the air.

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Mr. Dobbs’s relationship with Latinos will be crucial if he chooses to run against Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), the Senate’s lone Hispanic.

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