Lou Dobbs Turns Over a New Leaf with Latinos

Let’s hear it for clearing the air. After several years of lobbying by a host of Latino organizations and immigrant rights groups, CNN finally pulled the plug on Lou Dobbs, who rebooted a stalled broadcast career by hoisting up one piñata after another and inviting viewers to take a vicarious whack.

Because many of those whacks were aimed at Latinos -- or their language, their culture -- it’s no wonder that America’s largest minority is overjoyed at the news that Dobbs has left CNN in what has been prepackaged as a mutual parting of ways but has the feel of a firing. But now, many Latinos are also suspicious of one of the latest plot twists in this telenovela -- a new campaign by Dobbs to convince them that he's really one of their amigos, perhaps because he's rumored to be considering a run for political office. In fact, Dobbs has gone so far as to pitch himself to Latinos as someone who could be one of their strongest champions on ... get ready ... the immigration issue.

In an interview last week, Dobbs told Spanish-language network Telemundo he now supports a plan to legalize millions of illegal immigrants, a stance he has long criticized as an unacceptable "amnesty."

"Whatever you have thought of me in the past, I can tell you right now that I am one of your greatest friends and I mean for us to work together," Dobbs told Telemundo's Maria Celeste. "I hope that will begin with Maria and me and Telemundo and other media organizations and others in this national debate that we should turn into a solution rather than a continuing debate and factional contest." During the interview, Dobbs twice mentioned a possible legalization plan for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., saying that "we need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants under certain conditions."

Ay caramba!

My own relationship with Dobbs is complicated. For the last few years, I’ve served as a regular contributor to Cnn.com. And before that, I appeared on Dobbs’ show a half dozen times. Last year, after I wrote a column defending Barack Obama after the then-presidential candidate accused Dobbs of stirring racial and ethnic animosity, Dobbs attacked me in one of his monologue segments. During a chance meeting, Dobbs accused me of calling him a racist and a xenophobe. I told him that, in fact, I had done no such thing. All I’d written was that he was making a handsome living (about $6 to $9 million per year, according to the New York Post) from pandering to racists and xenophobes. That’s all.