Media World: CNN circles the wagons around Lou Dobbs

CNN is rushing to the defense of commentator Lou Dobbs.

The award-winning commentator has joined the internet-fueled debate over whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Never mind that there is a birth certificate stating he was born in Hawaii in 1961 and that no plausible evidence has been produced showing otherwise, or that other Obama birth certificates have been shown to be forgeries.

Dobbs, who has been with CNN since it was launched in 1980 except for a brief period he left following a row with management, is undaunted. He has contravened the efforts of CNN President Jon Klein, who called the story "dead," and continued to discuss the claims of the birthers. Now, the corporate brass appears to be backing Dobbs as it tries to block commercials critical of his support of the birthers. In a statement, CNN indicated that it has the right to defend itself against an "attack" on the network and its employee on commercials airing on its network. That's normal practice in the cable industry, said Christa Robinson, a CNN spokesman.
According to The New York Times, "CNN has worked with the cable operators that carry its channel to block the commercial, which was produced by the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters. " If true, these are pretty troubling allegations. It shows that the Time Warner Inc. (TWX) channel is putting the ego of one of its stars ahead of CNN's journalistic reputation.

The action smacks of desperation. Ever since the presidential campaign, CNN had had to cope with MSNBC's surging ratings. News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox News Channel is by far the most popular cable news network. CNN appears to be struggling to find its niche.

Progressive groups, furious with Dobbs over his stance on illegal immigration and now the birther controversy, are calling for Dobbs' head on a platter.

NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous told Media Matters for America, "We urge Mr. Dobbs to adhere to journalistic standards and assure that the stories he perpetuates are based in fact. " The Southern Poverty Law Center urged Klein to fire Dobbs for what its president J. Richard Cohen called "trading in falsehoods and racist conspiracy theories."

Even so, many Americans believe Dobbs. According to a recent poll, a majority of Republicans and people living in the South believe that Obama was not born in the U.S. or are not sure. That is pretty shocking.

CNN deserves criticism for allowing Dobbs a platform to fan the flames of racism and ignorance. Edward R. Murrow must be turning over in his grave.

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