Lou Dobbs thumbed his nose on Wednesday at Fox News and Fox Business' attempt to curtail the use of their airwaves to broadcast anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about billionaire philanthropist George Soros, raising more questions about Fox’s willingness to enforce its standards on its biggest stars.
At the end of an interview about a caravan of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States, as Dobbs tried to rush him off the air to go to a break, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) interjected, “It’s not anti-Semitic to criticize” billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, “and Israel issued a statement a year ago saying just that.”
Laughing, Dobbs replied, “I’m certainly glad that I didn’t just break away there.”
Gohmert’s comments aren’t wrong on their face -- I wrote last month that “not all criticism of Soros is anti-Semitic,” adding that “such critiques must be made carefully because horrific acts have been justified by the notion that Jewish people control the political system.” But Gohmert’s assertion was made following Fox’s half-hearted attempt to cordon off an attack on Soros made on Dobbs’ show that was criticized for explicit anti-Semitism. In this context, Dobbs’ laughter should be taken as a sign that he is uninterested in playing by any rules the network tries to establish.
Over the weekend, Fox News and Fox Business banned Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell from their networks. The decision came in response to Farrell falsely accusing Soros of masterminding the caravan during an interview on Dobbs' show. The episode containing the interview was rebroadcast hours after an anti-Semitic gunman who had spouted similar conspiracy theories allegedly murdered 11 people at a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue, triggering a media firestorm.
But Fox’s brief statement condemning Farrell’s “rhetoric” carefully avoided explaining specifically how Farrell erred -- perhaps because the networks can’t lay down a firm line on conspiracy theories about Soros when they are so common on Dobbs’ show in particular and Fox more broadly.
Dobbs himself did not push back on Farrell’s comments at the time, and has not explicitly mentioned the controversy on air since. But his discussion with Gohmert -- one of several Fox hosts and guests to baselessly link Soros to the caravan last month with no repercussions -- was an obvious winking commentary on that affair, and it came only days after Dobbs tweeted that the bombs sent to Soros and a host of other progressive and Democratic leaders were “Fake News.” According to CNN, “A Fox Business Network spokesperson declined at the time to comment on Dobbs' tweets, and wouldn't say whether they violated the network's standards.”
Like Sean Hannity, Dobbs has high ratings and close ties to President Donald Trump that have made him virtually untouchable at Fox. To the extent that his network actually has rules, it is either unable or unwilling to really compel him to follow them. He knows it, and that’s why he’s having the last laugh.