Leprosy and Lou: Fact-Checking Lou Dobbs - VIDEO

60 Minutes
May 6, 2007
Guest: Lou Dobbs
Following a report on illegal immigrants carrying diseases into the U.S., one of the correspondents on his show, Christine Romans, told Dobbs that there have been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the U.S. in the past three years. 60 Minutes checked that and found a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying that 7,000 is the number of leprosy cases over the last 30 years, not the past three. The report also says that nobody knows how many of those cases involve illegal immigrants.

"We went to try and check that number, 7,000. We can’t…," Stahl says.
"Well, I can tell you this. If we reported it, it’s a fact," Dobbs replies.
"You can’t tell me that. You did report it," Stahl says.
"I just did," Dobbs says.
"How can you guarantee that to me?" Stahl asks.
Says Dobbs, "Because I'm the managing editor. And that’s the way we do business. We don’t make up numbers, Lesley, do we?"1
It turns out that someone did make up those numbers. Even after Dobbs was informed that his information was contradicted by the federal government, he repeated the false information the day after on his show:
DOBBS: And there was a question about some of your comments, Christine. Following one of your reports, I told Leslie Stahl, we don't make up numbers, and I will tell everybody here again tonight, I stand 100 percent behind what you said.2
ROMANS: That's right, Lou. We don't make up numbers here. This is what we reported.
Want to know the Truth?

The report issued by Department of Health and Human Services is correct.3  There were, in fact, 7,000 total number of cases of leprosy over the past 30 years, and as Dobbs himself has admitted, “no one knows”4 how many can be attributed to undocumented immigrants.

Dobbs’s correspondent took the figure from an article written by medieval expert Madeleine Cosman in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons,5  a publication that has been described by some as a “right-wing” 6 and “untrustworthy”7 periodical.

On the December 4, 2007 edition of Democracy Now!, journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez brought up the case of (by then deceased) Madeleine Cosman to Lou Dobbs. In response, Dobbs claimed that a New York Times obituary found her to be a credible source on immigration:
DOBBS: Did you read that obituary? Did you find that the New York Times had come to basically the same conclusion we had, that she was a credible source? Because if you read that obituary, it is glowing and filled with plaudits for Madeleine Cosman.8
The Truth: The New York Times never called her a “credible source.” In fact, the headline description in her obituary is “Madeleine P. Cosman, 68, Medieval Expert, Dies.” They never call her a “respected medical lawyer and medical historian,” as Dobb’s correspondent had, only a day after the 60 Minutes report exposed their lies.9  The obituary did note that Cosman’s article was “widely reproduced on anti-immigration and other conservative Web sites.”10  Is that what you meant by “plaudits”, Lou?

And exactly who was Madeleine Cosman? Here’s a presentation she made about Mexican men:
COSMAN: Recognize that most of these bastards molest girls under age 12, some as young as age 5, others aged 3, although, of course, some specialize in boys, some specialize in nuns, some are exceedingly versatile and rape little girls aged 11 and women up to age 79.11
Unjustified lies. Unreliable, racist sources. All brought to you by the “most trusted name in news.”

1. “Lou Dobbs, ‘Advocacy’ Journalist?” 60 Minutes. CBS News. May 6, 2007
2. Lou Dobbs Tonight. CNN. Aired May 7, 2007
3. “New U.S. Reported Leprosy Cases by Year: 1976-2005.” National Hansen’s Disease Program. Health Resources and Services Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
4. “Fact-Checking Dobbs: CNN Anchor Lou Dobbs Challenged on Immigration Issues.” Democracy Now! December 04, 2007
5. Madeleine Cosman. “Illegal Aliens and American Medicine.” Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Spring 2005
6. “Center Urges CNN to Retract False Reporting by Lou Dobbs.” May 9, 2007
7. Stephen Barrett, M.D. “Nonrecommended Periodicals.” 2008
8. Democracy Now, supra note 4
9. Dobbs, supra note 2
10. Margalit Fox. “Madeleine P. Cosman, 68, Medieval Expert, Dies.” The New York Times. Published: March 19, 2006
11. Madeleine Cosman. “Illegal Aliens and America’s Medicine.” Video Presentation. 2005

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund