2/1/08 Dallas Morning News
Cable news channels have let the war of words
over immigration escalate into hate speech, according to a national
Hispanic civil rights organization.
The National Council of La Raza wants to meet executives of Fox
News, MSNBC and CNN and take them to task for "handing hate a
microphone" on their programs, said Janet Murguia, president and
chief executive of the organization.
"Hate groups and extremists have taken over the immigration debate,"
She also called on Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee
to renounce his endorsement by Minuteman Project co-founder Jim
Gilchrist, a frequent guest on cable news shows opposing immigration
reform. In response, Mr. Gilchrist called La Raza a racial supremacy
group that "dwarfs the combination of Black Panthers, KKK, American
Indian Movement and Asian gangs."
CNN Worldwide's CEO agreed to meet with the group, said Cecilia
Munoz, the council's senior vice president. A CNN spokeswoman said
Ms. Murguia will appear on Lou Dobbs' show Monday night.
Spokespeople for Fox News and the Huckabee campaign declined to
comment. MSNBC officials said they look forward to receiving NCLR's
Ms. Murguia said the tone taken by networks, hosts and commentators
had derailed discussion of the issues that need to be addressed in
"It is a serious issue and it requires a serious discussion. And we
welcome that discussion," she said.
More troubling, Ms. Murguia said, the tone of the debate on the
cable news channels could be the cause of an increase in hate crimes
against Latinos, which increased 25 percent between 2004 and 2006,
according to FBI statistics compiled by the Latino group.
"This surge of hate is being driven by a relatively small but vocal
and extreme segment of our society," she said.
The organization will first seek to resolve its problems with the
networks amicably, Ms. Murguia said, but she said the growing
economic power of the Hispanic community could come into play.
"These outlets have sponsors, so if we can't get to the networks,
we'll get to the sponsors," she said.
And politicians, from presidential candidates to candidates for
Congress, who embrace the same rhetoric risk facing defeat at the
polls, Ms. Murguia said. She highlighted that point in answering a
question about whether the group would support mass demonstrations.
"The march I support would be the marches that would occur on
Election Day in November, straight to the voting booths," Ms.
Although he shares Ms. Murguia's concerns and backs her efforts,
Brent Wilkes, the executive director of the League of United Latin
American Citizens, said he wasn't certain how effective NCLR's
efforts would be.
"We certainly are supportive and we've certainly tried to do the
same thing in the past," Mr. Wilkes said. "It doesn't seem to work
because the media companies like the controversy."
He added that arguing with the media "is like wrestling with a pig.
You both get dirty, but the pig likes it."