During his Lou Dobbs Tonight “special report” on the efforts of the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to combat illegal immigration, Lou Dobbs praised a controversial anti-immigrant ordinance passed by the city, but he did not mention that, during the segment, he was promoting, on the show's CNN website, a website soliciting money for Hazleton's legal fund.
On the May 2 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs reported from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for a “special report” called "Broken Borders," which he said, “examine[d] [Hazleton's] efforts to deal with the harsh realities of illegal immigration.” On June 13, 2006, Hazleton passed the "Illegal Immigration Relief Act," drafted by the city's mayor, Lou Barletta, a controversial ordinance that sought to suspend the permits of local businesses and others for employing “unlawful workers” and landlords for renting to “illegal aliens.” The measure, which was slated to go into effect in September 2006, was suspended in October of that year, after several groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), challenged the legislation. At no point during what Dobbs called “a very special hour” did he mention that, on the Lou Dobbs Tonight website, he had been promoting a solicitation for donations to Hazleton's legal defense fund.
From the special “Broken Borders” broadcast on the May 2 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: The national media, if I may say, appears hell-bent on obfuscating the issue, frequently equating legal immigration with illegal immigration. But the facts are clear. There are as many as 20 million people in this country illegally.
And the Bush administration and the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill seem determined to impose a massive illegal alien amnesty on American citizens, with little or no regard for the consequences.
Communities such as Hazleton are now taking action on their own, precisely because the federal government has failed to secure our borders or to enforce our immigration laws.
Later, Dobbs interviewed Barletta, who talked about the ordinance's impact:
BARLETTA: It was amazing, Lou. Immediately after we passed the ordinance, we witnessed many people leaving in the middle of the night, actually packing up their belongings and leaving.
So, you know, we would -- it would be fair to assume that those that left so quickly were illegal aliens who were just fleeing to another city.
Dobbs praised Barletta's efforts, stating, “Hazleton, the community, is leading the battle against illegal immigration, stepping in where the federal government has simply failed to perform its duty.”
Yet, Dobbs neglected to mention that, during the segment, he was promoting solicitations to the town's legal fund. On his show's website, Dobbs posted a link to Small Town Defenders, a site hosted by Barletta that solicits money for the city's legal fight against MALDEF and the ACLU.
At the top of Barletta's site, he implores visitors to donate: “We need your help! Your contribution will help us win this fight!”
The Associated Press reported that, as of May 5, Hazleton has raised $266,000 in private donations.
According to a separate AP report published May 4, after receiving a letter from the National Institute for Latino Policy, CNN chief executive Jim Walton removed the link to Small Town Defenders.
During its May 6 profile of Dobbs, CBS' 60 Minutes did not mention that Dobbs had been promoting solicitations for Hazleton's legal fund. At the end of its segment, however, CBS acknowledged that Dobbs had taken on a new role: “While [correspondent Lesley] Stahl was talking to Dobbs, unbeknownst to 60 Minutes, he was talking to CBS News and has now joined The Early Show as a weekly commentator.”