CNN host Lou Dobbs fought back on the Wednesday edition of "Lou Dobbs Tonight" against David Leonhardt's Wednesday column , which slammed the anchor as a paranoia-spreading "nativist" for warning of the dangers of illegal immigration.
Here's an excerpt from the conclusion of Wednesday's show (transcript courtesy of the MRC's Brad Wilmouth):
Lou Dobbs: "Now, if I may, a personal note tonight that I'd like to share with you. I've been, over the years, because of our reporting on controversial issues and my strongly held beliefs on those issues, attacked - and usually pretty vigorously - by both the left wing and the right wing of this nation's media, both mainstream and otherwise, and of course the politicians that form the extremes of our political spectrum. As a matter of fact, I am regularly attacked by the right wing - the biggest business lobbyists in the country, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Bush administration - for my criticism of so-called free trade policies and outsourcing.
"I'm regularly attacked by the left wing as well - the Southern Poverty Law Center, The New York Times, The Nation, MALDEF and MEChA - for my opposition to illegal immigration. Today, The New York Times published a column that picks up where an advertisement, a paid advertisement in The Times, paid for by the Southern Poverty Law Center, left off two weeks ago. Today's New York Times column is primarily a personal attack on me, focuses on an ad-lib on the set of this broadcast uttered more than two years ago by Christine Romans on the number of cases of leprosy in this country. An unscripted ad-lib, not a report - by the way, we've never done a report on leprosy until we had to set this record straight a couple of weeks ago. That's over four and a half years of reporting on that issue."
"But today's scurrilous personal attack from The New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, carrying the water of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also has the facts wrong.
"He wrote that I said, quote, that 'One-third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants.' That isn't what I said. I didn't say anything close to it.
"We reported that one-third of the federal prison population three and a half years ago were non-citizens. The columnist said the number was 6 percent. The exact number of the year in question was 29.3 percent for fiscal year 2001. And by the way, we're putting up links on our Web site, loudobbs.com, so you can check the numbers for yourself.
"I introduced that report three and a half years ago by saying the number of illegal immigrants in our prisons was increasing and the financial burden rising. Well, we had to go back and check, and because our correspondent no longer has his notes to support that statement, that the number of illegal immigrants within a prison population of non-citizens, I have to retract it here tonight, and I apologize to you for the necessity of doing so. But like I said, I do make mistakes."