Dobbs, Louis Carl (1945–)

Louis Carl Dobbs is a political commentator, author, and television personality. Throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century, Lou Dobbs established himself as one of the most influential populist voices in the United States. As the host of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, which aired from 2003 through 2009, Dobbs expressed his generally libertarian, albeit passionate, political viewpoints to nightly audiences of more than 800,000 viewers. Dobbs is best known for his outspoken opposition toward illegal immigration, as well as his criticism of globalization and free-trade economic policies. He indicates that through the federal government's alleged failure to properly address these two issues, the power elites within both major political parties have initiated a de facto “war on the middle class” in the United States. Dobbs hosted Moneyline on CNN from the cable news channel's inception in 1980 until his departure from the network in 1999; he returned to CNN in 2001 and eventually renamed the program Lou Dobbs Tonight. Dobbs left CNN in November 2009. He has also hosted the daily Lou Dobbs Radio program since 2009 and returned to television in late 2010 when he resumed Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox Business Network channel.

During his first stint with CNN, Dobbs, whose background was in business and government, served primarily as an analyst for economic and financial issues, expressing support for free trade and economic liberalism, that is, free-market capitalism. Following his return, however, Dobbs began railing against free-trade policies, such as NAFTA, for negatively impacting American workers by undercutting wages. He has also condemned free trade for facilitating the outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing jobs to foreign nations so employers may take advantage of reduced costs of production by paying workers in other countries considerably lower wages than they could American employees. Dobbs began incorporating the segment “Exporting America” into his nightly television program after rejoining CNN, which contained features that highlighted Dobbs's opposition to free trade and outsourcing and exposed alleged corporate greed.

In 2003, Dobbs added a “Broken Borders” segment to his television show to draw attention to illegal immigration. More than any other single issue, Dobbs's staunch opposition to illegal immigration has made him a controversial figure, earning him praise from immigration control advocates and sparking outrage among immigrant rights advocates and Latino civil rights activists. While expressing sympathy for the plight of undocumented aliens, Dobbs has passionately asserted that the U.S. government refuses to enforce its immigration laws and that illegal aliens bring diseases, crime, terrorism, and welfare exploitation to the United States. He has expressed support for harsh civil and criminal penalties on employers who hire undocumented aliens; such sanctions were established under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act but have gone largely unenforced.

Dobbs's anger over illegal immigration extends far beyond its financial ramifications, however. He regularly refers to children born in the United States to undocumented mothers as “anchor babies” because such children are U.S. citizens who then entitle their mothers to certain benefits despite the fact that these parents are not citizens themselves. In 2006 Dobbs criticized ethnic holidays, such as Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day, as ethnocentric because such celebrations entail displays of other nations’ flags. Dobbs has also referred to Latino civil rights organizations, such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), as ethnocentric. In addition, Dobbs's program has entertained the theory that illegal immigrants from Mexico are part of a conspiracy promoted by the Mexican government to reclaim the southwestern United States, which was annexed in 1848 at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. Dobbs advocates using the National Guard to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border, has mocked congressional bipartisan immigration reform legislation as “the Amnesty Agenda,” and heavily criticized President George W. Bush's relatively moderate views on immigration policy, which included support for a guest-worker migrant labor program.

Justin D. García

See also: Palin, Sarah (1964–) ; Tea Party


Dobbs, Lou. Exporting America: Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas. New York: Warner Business Books, 2004.

Dobbs, Lou. War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Eviatar, Daphne. “Nightly Nativism.” The Nation (August 28–September 4, 2006): 18–25.