On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Lou Dobbs again tried to downplay his program's airing and affirming of a falsehood about the number of leprosy cases in the United States. Dobbs also claimed again that his airing of a May 16 report by CNN correspondent Bill Tucker "set the record straight" on the leprosy issue, but the report did not note the uncritical citation of the false statistic or Dobbs' repeated defense of it.
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On the June 18 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host and CBS Early Show contributor Lou Dobbs again tried to downplay his program's airing and affirming of a falsehood about the number of leprosy cases in the United States, saying the comment was "eight seconds long and, as I said, took place two and a half years ago." While the original citation of the false statistic -- "There have been 7,000 [leprosy cases] in the past three years" -- aired in 2005, Dobbs has defended it numerous times in the past several weeks. Further, Dobbs again claimed that his airing of a May 16 report by CNN correspondent Bill Tucker "set the record straight" on the leprosy issue. But as Media Matters for America noted, Tucker's report did not note the uncritical citation of the false statistic or Dobbs' repeated defense of it. Dobbs' June 18 comments came in response to a New York Times column by Times editorial board member Lawrence Downes that noted the false statistic.
On the April 14, 2005, edition of Lou Dobbs, CNN correspondent Christine Romans said that Madeleine Cosman, anti-immigration activist and founding director of the Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the City College of New York, "told us that there were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years." However, as Media Matters noted, according to the National Hansen's Disease Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 398 cases of Hansen's disease, or leprosy, reported between 2002 and 2004 "the past three years" from Romans' initial report.
Dobbs defended the comment during an interview on the May 6 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes and on the May 7 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight. Dobbs told CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl: "If we reported it, it's a fact." The next day, Dobbs told Romans on Lou Dobbs: "I stand 100 percent behind what you said."
In a May 30 New York Times column, David Leonhardt wrote that Dobbs "admitted ... sort of" that Romans had cited inaccurate information. Leonhardt then wrote that Dobbs told him "that as far as he [Dobbs] was concerned, he [Dobbs] had corrected the mistake" on May 16, even though, Leonhardt added, "he [Dobbs] has never acknowledged on the air that his program presented false information twice." On the May 30 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs again asserted that Tucker's report set the record straight: "[W]e've never done a report on leprosy until we had to set this record straight a couple of weeks ago."
From the June 18 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: And I'll have a few blunt words about the escalating attacks against me and this broadcast by left-wing liberal media organizations and a few others.
DOBBS: And our good friends at The New York Times continue to carry the water of their little left-wing cousin, the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC decided to make much of a comment by one of our correspondents at the end of a report on tuberculosis [sic] that we did two and a half years ago.
In what is apparently a fundraising frenzy, the SPLC sent out thousands of emails seeking donations and using my name to drive their supporters to open their wallets.
The correspondent's comment, by the way, referred to the national registry of leprosy cases rising to 7,000. The comment, by the way, was eight seconds long and, as I said, took place two and a half years ago. And we never produced a report on leprosy until I decided last month to set the record straight. Interestingly enough, the Times has never acknowledged those facts. I guess they're a little cumbersome for The New York Times, given all of the ideological weight that burdens them.