art by Favianna Rodriguez
“ Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ” – Paulo Freire, Educator
CNN calls itself "The Most Trusted Name in News," but for years they provided a platform for Lou Dobbs to spread dangerous myths about immigrants and use dehumanizing and disrespectful language towards the Latino community. In 2009 Presente.org fought back, spearheading a multi-stage, national campaign with dozens of partners demanding that CNN remove Dobbs. On November 11, 2009 that campaign achieved its goal when Dobbs abruptly resigned from CNN, marking a major victory for Latinos and our allies.
Dobbs' departure came after months of negative press and controversy, much of it spurred by the Basta Dobbs campaign. "Basta Dobbs" became a rallying cry for Latinos and our allies concerned about Dobbs' long history of anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric. We took advantage of two strategic openings at CNN: the network’s efforts to define itself as a neutral alternative to Fox News and MSNBC, and CNN’s desire to court Latino viewers through a new "Latino in America" series. Our core message was that CNN “can’t have it both ways” -- seeking Latinos as viewers while giving Dobbs a platform for his near daily attacks.
To deploy this message, we partnered with leading Latino organizations and other allies in cities across the country -- from Los Angeles to Phoenix to Orlando. We joined together to successfully demand that CNN no longer allow Dobbs to spew hate thinly disguised as "news." To ensure the message got across, we used a variety of tactics including:
‣ An online video, produced with award-winning documentarian Arturo Perez, called “CNN: Lou Dobbs or Latinos in America?”
‣ A text-message shortcode publicized via radio and on-the-ground events, which enabled people to join the campaign.
‣ Significant press, op-ed and PR push – in English and in Spanish – throughout the campaign, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, El Diario and La Opinion.
‣ On-the-ground events – coordinated via text-message reminders -- in 18 top Latino media markets across the country.
‣ A digital sit-in on CNN’s Web site, which allowed Presente.org members to deliver their comments and pictures directly to CNN.
Dobbs' resignation not only changed the discourse about Latinos and immigrants on CNN, but helped our community and the country to see our power as both a moral and economic force. And the Basta Dobbs campaign helped demonstrate the enormous potential of uniting online organizing with traditional on-the-ground organizing. In recognition of its achievements, Basta Dobbs was awarded "Campaign of the Year," by the New Organizing Institute, the leading progressive organization conduciting training, research, and evaluation in new organizing strategies.