On the January 16 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs noted that that the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, based in Nevada, "is encouraging its members to caucus on behalf of Senator [Barack] Obama [D-IL]" and then claimed: "[I]n point of fact, as many as half of the union's members are illegal aliens" [emphasis added]. Near the end of the segment, Dobbs referred to the "Culinary Workers Union, with just about half of its membership assumed to be illegal aliens" [emphasis added]. CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, appearing on-air from Las Vegas, did not challenge either assertion. On-screen text during the segment read: "Many of Culinary Workers in Nevada are Illegal Aliens" and "Fears Illegal Aliens Could Influence Outcome of Vote."
Dobbs did not provide any support to back up his assertion regarding the makeup of the Culinary Workers Union. On March 23, 2007, the Associated Press reported that, according to the Union's then-political director, "about half" of the union's members are "immigrants":
An army of union cocktail waitresses, housekeepers and line cooks stands ready to throw its numbers and organizational abilities behind a presidential candidate.
But Democrats who hope to enlist the state's largest labor union to try to win Nevada's new early caucus must address issues important to the service workers who make Las Vegas glitter.
So it's no surprise that one of the candidates' first stops was at the Culinary offices.
Union leaders invited all eight Democratic candidates to address their members. Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel and former vice presidential nominee John Edwards declined the invitation, citing scheduling conflicts, union Political Director Pilar Weiss said.
Weiss said the members, about half of whom are immigrants, have said they're most interested in candidates' positions on immigration and health care reform.
"We expect that the candidates will recognize that we have a service economy and they're talking to service workers," Weiss said.
So Dobbs' claim amounts to the assertion that all of the members of the Culinary Workers Union who are immigrants are, in Dobbs' words, "illegal aliens."
From the January 16 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: Democratic presidential candidates tonight are stepping up their battle to win the Hispanic vote before Saturday's caucuses in Nevada. The powerful Culinary Workers Union is to play a critical role in that effort. The union is encouraging its members to caucus on behalf of Senator Obama -- but in point of fact, as many as half of the union's members are illegal aliens.
Candy Crowley reports now from Las Vegas. Candy, just how concerned is the Democratic Party, if at all, about possible irregularities -- shall we call them -- in those caucuses?
CROWLEY: Well, look, let me tell you what they say -- and this is a couple of officials -- about why they think is this not a problem, OK? They say, first of all, the idea that illegal immigrants who are trying to hide from the law are going to show up, sign an affidavit that they're a U.S. citizen and caucus, seems to, in the words of one, to be ridiculous.
They also say that given that, that they really don't see how a massive outpouring of illegals could change a caucus. They said there just won't be this massive outpouring, so there won't be a way to kind of change whatever the caucus decides. I will tell you that also we spoke to a PR guy for a couple of these hotels here, who didn't want to be named, but who said, "Look, these are multinational corporations here, these hotels. We don't hire illegals." I know I say that at my own peril, but I'm just telling you what they're saying at this point, Lou.
DOBBS: That is delightful. That is one of the better bald-face lies to emanate from any corner of this campaign so far; luckily it doesn't come from one of the candidates. But the very idea that, you know, that makes perfect sense what you're -- the Democratic folks -- Democratic Party folks said, because we know that these illegal aliens, for example, would never deign or dare to march in the streets of the United States, demanding rights of citizenship when they're here illegally.
We know they would never, for example, in any way, violate law with fraudulent documents or identity theft or take jobs with improper documentation. So, you're right. The nation's mind should be at ease on the issue of the integrity of these caucuses.
CROWLEY: Well, let me tell you another thing that really is interesting along the campaign trail. Our [senior political] producer, Sasha Johnson, points out that at one of these events with Hillary Clinton, somebody shouted out: "Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to caucus?" So these campaigns understand that there is in fact a language barrier and some confusion about how these Nevada caucuses actually work, so it's going to be a really interesting Saturday, let's just say that.
DOBBS: It should be an interesting Saturday. We're laughing about it here. But the reality is, this is serious business. We're talking about the integrity of our Democratic process, and it's an integrity that is not being preserved through the efforts and the concerns of many state governments or the electoral boards across the country.
It's a very difficult issue. So the Democratic Party, with all of the assuaging comments, what that really adds up to is they're taking no additional steps to assure that everyone who caucuses is legal and properly there within the caucus.
CROWLEY: Well, one of the things they want to -- they say they're going to do here, and particularly along the strip where they have these at-large caucuses where the culinary workers and others by the way will get a chance to go ahead and caucus -- they say, "Listen, they're going to have to show, first of all, an employee ID and they are going to have to sign that affidavit that says: 'Listen I'm a U.S. citizen. I am eligible to vote.' "
The Democratic Party says it will then check that against voter registration rolls, and then, if there's any discrepancies, they will refer it to the state. It's a felony to say that, but you do have to sort of step back and think, "OK, after this is all over and done, what's the incentive to actually take those names and match them up against the registration?" So, you know, they're the ones, you know, obviously, enforcing it, so we'll see how it comes out.
DOBBS: Indeed we will. The Culinary Workers Union, with just about half of its membership assumed to be illegal aliens there to begin with, supporting Senator Obama. That ought to be just -- I don't know why anyone would be concerned at all about this situation.
Candy, thank you, as always, for your excellent report. Candy Crowley, we appreciate it.