Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo Attack The Pope

On April 16, 2008, Lou Dobbs took his “advocacy journalism”1 to a new low in mischaracterizing Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit to the United States.

False Claim: Pope Benedict supports “amnesty” and wants the U.S. to “ease any enforcement.”

DOBBS: Well, Pope Benedict XVI is in the nation's capital tonight, there to help the Catholic Church and the Council of Bishops push the amnesty agenda.


Pope Benedict himself, obviously, supporting that approach and calling upon the United States to ease any enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.2
The Facts:
The Pope, in fact, did not announce that he supports an “amnesty agenda,” nor did he call upon the U.S. to “ease any enforcement.” Pope Benedict’s actual statement from the White House that aired later in Dobbs’s program was:
As a nation faces increasingly complex political and ethical issues of our time, I'm confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible, and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.3
Pope Benedict has never supported any specific piece of American legislation, but instead has called upon the American public to engage in a rational immigration debate. Dobbs’s accusations have no basis in reality.

False Claim: Pope Benedict is anti-American
DOBBS: Also, Pope Benedict XVI meeting with President Bush at the White House, calling upon the United States to be more humane to migrants, as he put it. The Pope, obviously, considering the United States something less than its actual standing as the most welcoming country in the world to immigrants, legal and illegal.4
The Facts:
Pope Benedict never suggested the U.S. was an unwelcoming country. The joint statement released by the White House states:
The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a coordinated [international] policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the well being of their families.5
Even while en route to the United States, Pope Benedict spoke to reporters of the need to treat immigrant families humanely:
The separation of families “is truly dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric. . . The fundamental solution is that there should no longer be a need to emigrate, that there are enough jobs in the homeland, a sufficient social fabric,” he said. Short of that, families should be protected, not destroyed, he said.


In Washington, Benedict encouraged the American bishops and their communities “to continue to welcome immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home.” That, he said, was the American tradition.6
Again, the Pope’s message has consistently been about reason and humanity, not secular details such as legalization or border fences. Dobbs also fails to mention how Pope Benedict repeatedly spoke of America in positive terms during his visit:
POPE BENEDICT XVI: I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel, and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society. America's Catholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to the life of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.


Mr. President, dear friends, as I begin my visit to the United States, I express once more my gratitude for your invitation, my joy to be in your midst, and my fervent prayers that Almighty God will confirm this nation and its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace. God bless America.7
Tancredo Chimes In
Lou Dobbs wasn’t the only anti-immigrant spokesperson to comment on Pope Benedict’s visit. In an attempt to overshadow previous controversies, like when he referred to Miami as a “Third World country,”8 or when he attempted to pull Spanish-language books off the shelves of the Denver Public Library,9 Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo issued this press release during the Pope’s visit:
“I suspect the Pope’s immigration comments may have less to do with spreading the gospel than they do about recruiting new members of the church," said Tancredo. "This isn’t preaching it is ‘faith-based’ marketing.”10
It is no surprise that the Pope’s call for “reasoned, responsible, and respectful dialogue” has offended Dobbs and Tancredo. As main contributors to the current anti-immigrant atmosphere in the United States, it is expected that they would attack anyone who calls for the humane treatment of immigrants and the need for reasoned debate on immigration.

1. “Lou Dobbs, ‘Advocacy’ Journalist?” 60 Minutes. CBS News. May 6, 2007
2. Lou Dobbs Tonight. CNN. Aired April 16, 2008
3. Id.
4. Id.
5. "Joint Statement of the United States and Holy See." Office of the Press Secretary. April 16, 2008
6. "Pope Speaks Up for Immigrants, Touching a Nerve." The New York Times, April 20, 2008
7. "President Bush Welcomes His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to White House." Office of the Press Secretary. April 16, 2008
8. "GOP Rep. Calls Miami 'Third World Country'." CBS News, Nov. 30, 2006
9. "Bilingual Material in Libraries Draws Some Criticism." Associated Press, September 5, 2005
10. "Tancredo Criticizes Pope’s Comments on Immigration." Office of Representative Tom Tancredo, April 17, 2008

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund