During the June 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, the politically charged word “amnesty” once again appeared in captions beneath news reports by CNN correspondents on deliberations over the Senate immigration bill. It was at least the second time in two weeks that a caption bearing the word “amnesty” has appeared in a news report airing on Dobbs that did not appear in similar reports during other CNN programs. This time, separate reports by White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and congressional correspondent Dana Bash were accompanied by on-screen text referring to “Bush's amnesty push,” “pro-amnesty senators,” and the “amnesty bill,” even though both Malveaux and Bash have noted in previous reporting that “amnesty” is a characterization of the bill favored by “critics.” When CNN's The Situation Room had aired similar reports earlier that day, the accompanying on-screen text featured the less inflammatory descriptor “Immigration deal,” suggesting that Dobbs' program was responsible for adding editorial commentary to what was ostensibly a CNN news report.
On the June 14 edition of The Situation Room, during Malveaux's report on the White House's offer “to spend an additional $4 billion to secure the border,” the on-screen text read: “Immigration deal sweetener: Pres. Bush offer to GOP” :
But when the identical report aired later that evening on Lou Dobbs Tonight, the on-screen text read: “Bush's amnesty push: Bush makes new offer” :
Similarly, during Bash's live report from Capitol Hill on the June 14 edition of The Situation Room, in which she reported on a possible “breakthrough,” the on-screen text read: “Immigration deal making: Close to a new agreement” :
But during Bash's live report on Lou Dobbs Tonight, the on-screen text read: “Pro-amnesty senators reach 'deal' to revive amnesty bill” :
In previous reports on the congressional debate over immigration, both Malveaux and Bash have 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. On the May 16, 2006, edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Malveaux, in a report about a previous immigration bill, noted that "[c]ritics" of Bush's immigration plan called it “amnesty” and described this characterization as an “argument.” From that report:
MALVEAUX: The second component of the president's immigration reform plan, a temporary-worker program, is also running into trouble from members of the president's own party, specifically the proposal to allow some illegal immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship. Critics say that amounts to amnesty.
REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R-AZ): The longer and the more flagrantly you have broken our immigration laws, the easier it will be to get on the so-called path to citizenship. I don't believe the American people will appreciate that. And I think they reject it.
MALVEAUX: To blunt the argument that such a plan is amnesty, Mr. Bush used some new words, which put the issue into moral terms.
Similarly, as Media Matters for America previously noted, on the May 18 edition of CNN Newsroom, Bash presented a report in which she quoted Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) saying, “We must meet certain enforcement and security triggers that will let everyone know that we are serious about enforcing our laws and that we're not going to repeat the 1986 amnesty,” before noting that “a host of conservative critics labeled it [the Senate immigration bill] amnesty, vowed to block it, and said McCain and other supporters would pay a price.”
From the June 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is watching it.
What do we know right now, Dana? Where do the negotiations stand?
BASH: Well, all throughout the day today, Wolf, senators have been meeting in a very small room right off the Senate floor, and they've been trying very hard to revive this immigration bill.
And, of the senators we talked to coming out, just even in the past half-an-hour or so, said that they were actually cautiously optimistic. One source inside the room actually said that they may be even on the verge of a breakthrough -- a breakthrough that could -- could -- bring this immigration bill back to the Senate floor by late next week.
From the June 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: President Bush, today, making a new effort to win over opponents of his amnesty legislation. President Bush now offering to spend an additional $4 billion to secure the border, but one leading opponent of the president's amnesty plan, Congressman Duncan Hunter [R-CA], a presidential candidate, blasting the offer. Congressman Hunter said border security shouldn't be conditional on amnesty.
Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House.
[begin video clip]
MALVEAUX: In a desperate effort to get immigration reform through Congress, President Bush is offering this compromise: pass the bill, and immediately nearly $4.5 billion will go to strengthening the border.
BUSH [video clip]: The need for reform is urgent.
MALVEAUX: The urgency in securing the border is a transparent effort by Mr. Bush to convince his critics, mostly conservatives of his own party, that the government is serious about border enforcement. A senior administration official involved in the negotiations says this compromise is meant to address the mistakes of the immigration bill signed in 1986.
BUSH: Most Americans agree that the 1986 immigration law failed -- didn't work. It failed because it did not secure our border.
MALVEAUX: White House aides say the money would initially come out of the U.S. Treasury to create this $4.5 billion account. The account would be paid off using the fees and penalties collected from the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants over a two-year period.
TONY SNOW (White House press secretary) [video clip]: Think of it as a direct deposit right now on border security.
MALVEAUX: But with no idea of how many illegal immigrants are really in the United States, or how many would comply with the law and pay penalties, even White House aides acknowledge they're not certain the numbers would add up.
SNOW [video clip]: You're absolutely right. No, I hadn't -- no 100-percent guarantees here, but it is based on the best estimates.
MALVEAUX: But for some Republicans, any funds for border security that are tied to illegal immigrants becoming U.S. citizens is unacceptable.
HUNTER [video clip]: The security of American borders should not be conditioned on amnesty.
[end video clip]
MALVEAUX: Now, Lou, despite Congressman Duncan Hunter's reservations -- and he obviously says he is not in support of this plan -- those aides who I spoke with, White House aides, say they are confident that the president believes that this immigration reform bill will move forward, and the one reason they say this is because the president addressed what most concerned -- most of the Republicans who are concerned about, when they met behind closed doors on Tuesday with the president, and that is whether or not this administration would commit the resources to enforce the immigration, the laws, the border there.
And they believe that this $4.5 billion will add to what has already been requested, the $12 billion for border security, and that that will help in actually making this kind of support, building this support from the Republicans -- Lou.
DOBBS: Pro-amnesty senators tonight, reaching a tentative agreement to revive their amnesty legislation, but it is unclear whether the Democratic leadership supports their efforts.
Dana Bash has the report from Capitol Hill -- Dana.
BASH: Well, Lou, right now the senators who are trying to revive the immigration bill say they are on the verge of a breakthrough -- a breakthrough that they hope could bring immigration back to the Senate floor by next week. Now, as we speak, the Democratic and Republican leader in the Senate are meeting behind closed doors to figure out whether or not that can happen.