On Lou Dobbs This Week, the politically charged word "amnesty" appeared in captions beneath news reports by CNN correspondents who have noted in previous reporting that "amnesty" is a characterization favored by opponents of the immigration bill, continuing a pattern on Dobbs' programs of adding editorial commentary to what are ostensibly CNN news reports.
During the June 16 and 17 editions of CNN's Lou Dobbs This Week, the politically charged word "amnesty" once again appeared in captions beneath news reports by CNN correspondents on deliberations over the Senate immigration bill. A report by congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel and a panel discussion featuring senior political correspondent Candy Crowley and chief national correspondent John King were accompanied by on-screen text referring to "Amnesty Push: Illegal Alien Amnesty Agenda," even though all three correspondents have noted in previous reporting that "amnesty" is a political characterization favored by opponents of the immigration bill. As Media Matters for America has documented, Dobbs' weeknight program, Lou Dobbs Tonight, has previously aired reports on immigration legislation using the word "amnesty" in the text at the bottom of the screen -- reports that had aired during other CNN programs without that word, suggesting that Dobbs' program was responsible for adding editorial commentary to what was ostensibly a CNN news report.
On the June 15 edition of The Situation Room, during Koppel's report on a deal among senators to bring the Senate immigration bill back to the floor for further consideration, the on-screen text read: "Immigration Reform Revival: What's Next?":
But on the June 16 edition of Lou Dobbs This Week, when a report of Koppel's on the same topic aired, the on-screen text read: "Amnesty Push: Illegal Alien Amnesty Agenda":
The same on-screen text appeared on the following day's edition of Lou Dobbs This Week during a segment that included reports from Crowley and King:
In previous reports on the congressional debate over immigration, Koppel, Crowley, and King have all noted that "amnesty" is a term used by critics of reform proposals that would make citizenship possible for illegal immigrants currently in the United States. During a report on the May 17 edition of CNN's The Situation Room on the proposed Senate immigration bill, Koppel reported that "Republicans strongly opposed to offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship -- what they call amnesty -- said they'd vote against it":
KOPPEL: Even though negotiations brought together the most liberal and the most conservative members of the Senate, some of whom voted against last year's immigration bill, both sides acknowledge this deal is a fragile one, which opponents of compromise will try to tear apart.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Please, please, please, don't let the good be -- the perfect be the enemy of the good.
KOPPEL: Already in the House, Republicans strongly opposed to offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship -- what they call amnesty -- said they'd vote against it.
Similarly, during a report on the June 5 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Crowley contrasted the positions on immigration held by Republican presidential candidates Sen. John McCain (AZ) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. After airing a clip of McCain's statement that the Senate immigration bill he sponsored would allow illegal immigrants currently in the United States to eventually "be eligible for citizenship in this country," Crowley then reported that some Republicans -- including Romney -- "think pathway to citizenship is code for amnesty." From the June 5 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:
CROWLEY: The rift is as simple as it is real. It is embodied in an ongoing to-and-fro between John McCain and Mitt Romney. It is about those who favor a pathway to citizenship for the country's millions of illegals.
McCAIN: It's as long as 13 years -- 13 years before that they would be eligible for citizenship in this country.
CROWLEY: And it is about those who think pathway to citizenship is code for amnesty.
ROMNEY: They do not have to go home permanently. They stay here for the rest of their lives.
CROWLEY (on camera): In the end, the party split may well influence who Republicans pick for their nominee. But in the general election, the faithful are far more likely to overlook differences when the White House is at stake. Candy Crowley, CNN, Manchester, New Hampshire.
And on the May 20 edition of CNN's Late Edition, while interviewing Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, King said that the word was part of "the political debate" and that "in the political debate, amnesty has taken hold across this country." From the May 20 edition of Late Edition:
KING: He's talking about the technical aspects of the bill, Mr. Secretary. You know, in the political debate, amnesty has taken hold across this country. And the opponents, frankly, are winning the definitional debate right now in terms of politics.
The administration says this is not amnesty because those who came into this country illegally would have to pay a penalty, would have to pay back taxes, would have to come into the system some way. But if it's not amnesty, what is it?
If there's somebody sitting in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico who wants to come to the United States today to make a better life for his or her family, somebody that's in the United States, whether it's been for six months or six years or 10 years illegally, that person broke the law to get here and can get a Z visa when this program is in place. How is that not at least jumping the line or an easy pass, if not amnesty?
From the June 15 edition of The Situation Room:
WOLF BLITZER (host): Our congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel, is here joining us -- Andrea, what's next in this push for a new immigration bill?
KOPPEL: Well, Wolf, as you know, Democratic and Republican leaders agreed to whittle down hundreds of potential amendments to a list of about 20, clearing the way now to bring back immigration reform to the Senate floor as soon as next week.
KOPPEL: At the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, new hope an immigration deal could be within reach.
BUSH: Gracias. Siéntese, por favor.
KOPPEL: And a new appeal from President Bush.
BUSH: Thank you for making comprehensive immigration reform your top priority. I share that priority.
KOPPEL: And from some of the bill's biggest Republican and Democratic boosters.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA): This is in our national interests. This represents the best opportunity to make a difference for our country. And failure is not an option.
SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R-FL): The battle is long and the battle is hard. But I know that with your spirit and with your faith, that we will continue and we will prevail and persevere.
KOPPEL: The breakthrough, just one week after immigration reform seemed to hit a dead end, came after President Bush made a rare visit to Capitol Hill this week to meet with Republicans and after Mr. Bush pledged to support over $4 billion for border security, a key demand of conservatives.
From the June 16 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs This Week:
DOBBS: Pro-amnesty senators have reached agreement on a plan to reintroduce that legislation in the Senate. However, the amnesty legislation faces powerful opposition, particularly from members of the president's own party, and, of course, a little-considered group called the American people. Andrea Koppel reports from Capitol Hill.
KOPPEL: Lou, under the agreement reached, each side will get to offer at least 11 amendments for a total of at least 22 amendments. The breakthrough came after much arm-twisting, brinksmanship, and yes, even some cajoling by President Bush himself, who made a rare visit to Capitol Hill this week to meet with Senate Republicans. On Friday, President Bush reiterated why reaching an immigration deal is such a domestic priority.
BUSH [video clip]: Each day our nation fails to act, the problem only grows worse. I will continue to work closely with members of both parties, get past our differences, and pass a bill I can sign this year.
KOPPEL: Now according to one Republican senator and a couple of Democratic aides I spoke with who are intimately involved with these negotiations, they said that President Bush's announcement late this week that he was prepared to ante up another $4.4 billion to beef up border security as well as workplace enforcement played a key role in brokering a final deal.
Now, that said, there was still no agreement on the content of these amendments. And as you well know, Lou, they are still far from certain there will be a final immigration deal -- Lou.
From the June 17 edition of Lou Dobbs This Week, which also included CNN Washington correspondent Lisa Sylvester:
CROWLEY: Well, I think the president has already taken the political risk -- I mean, when he signed on to this bill. I'm not sure this makes him any more culpable about supporting it than he was before, but what we don't know is what this bill's going look like. All we know is that the processes now seem to be in place that there will be X many number of amendments, but I'm not sure we know what it's going look like.
DOBBS: Lisa Sylvester?
SYLVESTER: Well, I think that what you have is Republicans have been bolting from the president on this issue. They believe that he's absolutely tone deaf and he continues to go down this road, even though many members of his party both in the House and the Senate object.
DOBBS: John King?
KING: Well, you have a number of grassroots groups, Lou, now working to stop them from getting the 15 votes they needed for cloture last time and failed on it. The risk to the president? He's not on the ballot again and he has believed in this from day one, and so he wants this, very much so; he views it as a legacy item. But the risk for the Republican Party is a lot of conservatives think if you pass this legislation, some of the base will stay home in the 2008 elections, and you will have even more damage after the heartache of 2006 for the Republican Party. That is the calculation. The president and his team disagree, but many conservatives think if even of if a little bit of our base stays home, more trouble.