Lou Dobbs' journalism problem

Using the debunked conspiracy about the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate, CNN's Lou Dobbs and executives at that network have managed to redefine the professional standards of journalism.

On both his radio show and his CNN TV program over the past month (as well as in 2008), Lou Dobbs has expressed the opinion that the birth certificate released by the state of Hawaii and posted at various media and watchdog websites isn't real. On his radio show, which he always promotes on his CNN show, Dobbs stated that based on his belief that the certificate provided by Hawaii authorities isn't real President Obama's citizenship is in question and that he has a 'document' problem. Dobbs implied that the president may be an undocumented immigrant.

When challenged about these comments, Dobbs insisted that he merely hosts discussions about the conspiracy, despite the fact he has repeated his personal doubts about the authenticity of the president's birth certificate as is own opinion on numerous occasions on both his radio and TV programs.

This week, CNN President Jon Klein defended Dobb's repeated segments on the conspiracy by stating emphatically that the birth certificate issue has been satisfactorily debunked in his view. But he went on to describe Dobbs as one of CNN's 'leading journalists' and insisting that Dobbs has merely 'hosted panel discussions about this phenomenon' only to report on what others are saying about the conspiracy.

Klein's dubious defense of Dobbs prompted media watchdog Media Matters for America to describe Klein's remark as a misrepresentation of what Dobbs has done on his CNN program. 'Dobbs has gone far beyond reporting on other people's conspiracy theories; he has repeatedly used discredited arguments to cast doubt on the adequacy of the birth certificate Obama has provided,' said a recent post at that organization's website.

On a recent post at the , SPLC President Richard Cohen pointed out that James Von Brunn, the white supremacist who is charged with killing Holocaust Memorial Museum security guard Stephen T. Johns, also posted similar claims about the birth certificate conspiracy and castigated the media for not pursuing it as a story.

Cohen added that Dobbs' rhetoric about the birth certificate feeds a segment of the US population that isn't merely concerned with legal technicalities but rather obsesses over the specific issue of the president's racial background. He dismissed Klein's claims about journalistic integrity. Dobbs 'has a history of promoting false claims that originate on the radical right,' Cohen wrote.

'[W]e’re asking CNN, a private organization, to live up to its own standards of journalistic integrity and take Dobbs off the air,' Cohen added. 'Dobbs can continue spreading propaganda on every street corner in America. But CNN has no more of an obligation to allow him to appear on its network than it has an obligation to let me do the same.'

SPLC has to convince CNN to live up to its claims about journalistic integrity and remove Dobbs from its line-up.

And before anyone starts screaming about Lou Dobbs' free speech rights, please understand that when he and CNN President Joe Klein raised the issue of journalistic integrity they understood that they were imposing a professional standard, not a Constitutional one, on Dobbs. The CNN anchor has failed to adhere to that standard.

A professional journalist has a right to claim the sun is square, the Easter bunny shot JFK and that Obama has a 'documents' problem, but it's only the latter statement that Klein has defended or seems to believe should be promoted on his network each evening to hundreds of thousands of people.