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Good and Bad Developments in the Cable News Wars

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It's funny how the cable news networks so often become the news topics themselves. And this was a big week for that kind of "news news" -- some good, some bad.

First, the good news:

According to a recent announcement from ColorofChange.org, 11 more advertisers have pulled their ads from Glenn Beck's program on Fox News, bringing the total to 57! This is in response to Beck's recent assertions that President Obama is a racist who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people."

The latest companies to take their money away from Beck include Capital One, Dannon, Discover, Infiniti, and Mercedes-Benz.

For now, the management at Fox allows Beck to continue his show. He's a good little soldier after all, good at propagating the most extreme right-wing talking points. But will Fox get to a point where the bottom line is more important? (I won't hold my breath.)

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Now, the disappointing news:

CNN's Lou Dobbs, famous for his obsession with immigrants and a proponent of the birther movement, might soon outdo himself. Apparently he's scheduled to broadcast his show later this month from a rally sponsored by a hate group.

Media Matters for America explains:

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On September 15 and 16, Dobbs is scheduled to broadcast his radio show from Capitol Hill as a leading voice of the annual "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" legislative advocacy conference and rally sponsored by the rabidly anti-immigrant organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Founded by a man with a history of espousing racist beliefs and who remains on its board, FAIR is labeled as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dobbs' participation -- and, through him, CNN's -- will bestow mainstream legitimacy on the rally and on FAIR, something FAIR recognizes and is bragging about to its members.

CNN's association with FAIR through Dobbs is a major stain on an organization that calls itself "the most trusted name in news." FAIR was founded by John Tanton, a man who has a long history of making racist statements. In 1986, Tanton reportedly wrote: "As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night?" In 2001, Tanton even praised the work of John Trevor, a notorious Nazi sympathizer, saying his work should form "a guidepost to what we must follow again this time."

FAIR has been sharply criticized in the past for funding racially charged ads, including several in 2004 targeting former Democratic Rep. Martin Frost and former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel that featured dark-skinned men loitering on street corners and running from the police. In an editorial, the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star called the ads "trash" that "incite hate," "play upon stereotypical racial fears," and "are full of half-truths and lies."

And yet, rather than denouncing the group, Dobbs is scheduled to be a leading voice at the upcoming FAIR rally. What's more, his CNN show has cited FAIR as a credible source on immigration issues no fewer than six times in the last year.

While Dobbs' brand of hate-and-fear mongering is a little bit more subtle than Beck's, I agree with Media Matters that CNN should be concerned, especially since that network promotes itself as "the most trusted name in news".

If CNN allows this sort of thing to continue, it could end up becoming just a watered-down version of Fox News.

Is that what CNN's management really wants? I hope not.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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