Immigrants Targeted: Extremist Rhetoric Moves into the Mainstream Anti-immigrant rhetoric in media and politics
The hateful rhetoric around the immigration debate has gone beyond the rallies, lobbying, and media appearances by anti-immigration advocates. A number of media personalities in television and radio, as well as political leaders, have adopted the same language when discussing immigration issues in this country. From national TV correspondent Lou Dobbs to more extreme political commentator Patrick Buchanan to local radio personalities to members of Congress such as Tom Tancredo and Steve King, the use of anti-immigrant rhetoric has permeated the culture in our country.
An individual who influenced several of these figures is the late Madeleine Cosman, a self-described “medical lawyer” and propagandist who routinely demonized immigrants as a diseased, criminal element. Mainstream media commentators and politicians have utilized Cosman’s “research” to validate false allegations that immigrants coming to the U.S. carry a number of deadly and harmful diseases. In spite of her questionable data, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons published one of Cosman’s articles in its Spring 2005 issue. Her mainstream exposure added a veneer of legitimacy to her anti-immigrant arguments.
The following examples illustrate how this type of inflammatory rhetoric has been amplified in the media and in cultural and political arenas:
Under the guise of delivering news and commentary, Lou Dobbs, host of Lou Dobbs Tonight, a weekday show on CNN, broadcasts an anti-immigrant message and supports the views and activities of other anti-immigrant activists. Dobbs’ reach has recently spread beyond television, however. In March 2008, he began to host a nightly, three-hour weekday radio program, syndicated throughout the country, to which he has invited a number of anti-immigrant figures for interviews. In June 2008, he invited Rosanna Pulido, the head of the Illinois Minuteman Project, the Illinois spokesperson of You Don’t Speak for Me, and a Field Representative for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, on his show. During the interview, he called her an “outstanding community leader.” Other recent invited guests have included Ira Mehlman, the Media Director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a WashingtonD.C.-based anti-immigrant group; Peter Brimelow, who runs VDare, a Website that publishes racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant articles; William Gheen, the head of the anti-immigrant Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee group who has branded undocumented immigrants as murderous criminals infecting Americans with diseases; and Joe Vento, a Philadelphia restaurant owner who made national news by refusing to serve anyone who does not speak English.
In addition to inviting anti-immigrant activists, Dobbs has gone on the offensive against organizations that seek to expose him as a purveyor of demonizing anti-immigrant sentiment. In a February 2008 interview with National Council of La Raza (NCLR) President Janet Murguia on his syndicated TV show, Dobbs mischaracterized his own previous statements regarding the immigration issue and about the nature of the anti-immigrant advocates he hosts on CNN.
In spite of his pattern of painting undocumented immigrants, particularly Hispanic immigrants, as disease carriers and conspirators in a plot to recapture the American Southwest, he claimed on the show that he has “never spoken a hateful word against illegal immigrants.” Dobbs also contended that Chris Simcox is no longer associated with the Minutemen. Simcox currently leads the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, an anti-immigrant border vigilante group based in Arizona, which conducted border watch operations in four states in April 2008, with participants encouraged to bring arms.
In addition to supporting other anti-immigrant figures, Dobbs frequently spreads false propaganda about how immigrants are harming the United States. One of Dobbs’ most publicized claims was that “unscreened illegal immigrants” were partly to blame for an alleged 7,000 cases of leprosy in the United States from 2002-2005. When confronted with the United States Department of Health and Human Services’s findings of 7,029 cases over the past 30 years, not three years, Dobbs refused to recant his statement. His correspondent cited Madeleine Cosman as the source of the false statistic.
Dobbs has also publicized his views through writing. In 2007, Dobbs released Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit. In the book he writes:
Socioethnocentric special interest groups, meanwhile, join in the assault on our borders, demanding multiculturalism rather than assimilation into American society. America’s elites have embraced corporatism, globalism, and mulitculturalism as the unholy trinity of a twenty-first-century orthodoxy that is now at work to deny our traditions, values, and way of life and to render impotent even the idea of America’s national sovereignty.
Former presidential candidate and advisor, MSNBC commentator, and columnist Patrick Buchanan has long exploited anti-immigrant sentiment and has often expressed racist views. In June 2008, he appeared on the Political Cesspool, a Memphis-based AM and Internet radio show hosted by white supremacist James Edwards. This was Buchanan’s second appearance on the show, whose guest list has included anti-Semites, white supremacists, and anti-immigrant figures.
In December 2007, Buchanan released Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart. In the book, Buchanan discusses the “endless invasion from the Third World,” and a “Third World invasion [that] is pouring across our own border with Mexico.” Buchanan also writes, “…unlike the immigrants of old, Mexicans bear an ancient grudge against us as the country that robbed Mexico of half her land when both nations were young.”
Buchanan attributed America’s “committing suicide” to the ethno-demographic changes that have resulted from Latino immigration. He wrote:
How is America committing suicide? Every way a nation can. The American majority is not reproducing itself. Its birthrate has been below replacement level for decades...Hispanics, 1 percent of the U.S. population in 1950, are now 14.4 percent. Since 2000, their numbers have soared 25 percent to 45 million…The Anglo population of California is down to 43 percent and falling fast. White folks are now a minority in Texas and New Mexico. In Arizona, Hispanics account for more than half the population under twenty. The America Southwest is returning to Mexico.
He expressed similar views in his 2006 book, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, Buchanan’s pages are filled with xenophobia and conspiratorial allegations. In this book, he explained that “the crisis of the West is of a collapsing culture and vanishing peoples, as a Third World that grows by 100 million people -- the equivalent of a new Mexico -- every eighteen months mounts the greatest invasion in the history of the world. If we do not shake off our paralysis, the West comes to an end.”
Lynn Woolley, a Texas radio personality, is the host of an AM radio show syndicated throughout the country. At a November 2006 rally in Austin, Texas, Woolley warned that “gate crashers” will “be running this country and hoisting the Mexican flag…in Washington.” In a June 2007 article, he sounded the alarm that “Illegal Immigration Can Make You Sick” by asserting (incorrectly) that “hoards [sic] of illegals crash our border without medical screenings,” carrying “tuberculosis, Chagas disease, leprosy, Dengue fever, polio, malaria, hepatitis, and Marburg disease.” The source of this claim was Madeleine Cosman.
Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo* (R-CO) has generated much attention by exploiting the immigration issue. He chaired the Congressional Caucus on Immigration Reform in the House of Representatives and became a leading national spokesperson for anti-immigration views.
In November 2007, before withdrawing from the United States Presidential race, Tancredo ran ads on Iowa television in advance of the caucuses there that depicted undocumented immigrants as terrorists, rapists, and murderers. In one ad, as images of murdered bodies and tattooed Latino gang members flash across the screen, a narrator stated, “Mothers killed, children executed, the tactics of vicious Central American gangs now on U.S. soil.” Text then appeared on the screen which said, “Pushing Drugs. Raping Kids. Destroying Lives. The Consequence of Open Borders.”
Another ad featured a hooded and gloved man stuffing an object into a backpack and walking through public buildings. As a ticking noise played in the background, a narrator stated:
There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who’ve come to take our jobs. Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil. Jihadists, who froth with hate, here to do as they have in London, Spain, Russia. The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.
As the narrator spoke, images of bombed subways and a bloody child flashed across the screen. At the end of the ad, the individual sat on a bench, placed the backpack on the floor, and walked away. As the sound of a bomb going off echoed in the background, the words “Tancredo…before it’s too late” come on the screen.
Tancredo expressed similar views in his 2006 book, In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security, which he dedicated to Madeleine Cosman, whose work Tancredo cited in the book. Under “health threats posed by illegal immigration,” he listed Chagas disease (a potentially fatal parasitic disease), dengue fever, polio, and malaria. He also promoted the fallacy that 7,000 cases of leprosy plagued the United States in the past three years. He claimed, “Leprosy now is endemic to the Northeastern states because illegal aliens and other immigrants brought leprosy from Brazil, the Caribbean, India, and Mexico.”
Tancredo publicly supported the actions of border vigilante groups and appears with them at anti-immigrant events. He has a long-standing relationship with the Minutemen. The Minutemen are a loose network of local chapters around the country, whose primary goal is to keep “undocumented” immigrants from Mexico out of the United States. The more extreme Minutemen chapters advocate patrols of the Mexican-American border by armed volunteers.
Representing Iowa in the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Steve King* (R-IA) has characterized immigrants – both legal and undocumented – as criminals and disease-carriers. He has spoken alongside leaders of border vigilante groups and advocated a border “wall” topped with electrified wire to stop what he has called a “slow motion Holocaust” of undocumented immigration into the United States. King addressed the House of Representatives and asserted that undocumented immigration is “a slow-rolling, slow-motion terrorist attack on the United States.” He suggested that because undocumented immigrants comprise 28% of the prison population, “28 percent of the murders, 28 percent of the rapes, 28 percent of the violence and the assaults and battery, first- and second-degree murder and also manslaughter attacks are committed by criminal aliens.”
Featured Video: "Madeleine Cosman, Mexican predators"
This video, shared on YouTube, presents the late Madeleine Cosman, a self-described “medical lawyer” and propagandist, demonizing immigrants as diseased criminals in a 2005 speech.
*ADL takes no position in favor of, or in opposition to, candidates running for office, including Alan Keyes and Representatives Tancredo and King.