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Lou Dobbs is the Sean Hannity of Fox Business Network, a highly rated conservative gladiator who courts controversy and gets his network into hot water by crossing ever-changing rhetorical lines.
A favorite of President Donald Trump, Dobbs has made a series of ill-advised comments and social media posts over the last few months, some which have been walked back and others which have gone uncorrected and unpunished by his employer and parent company 21st Century Fox.
The primetime host upped the ante on Monday night in expressing his displeasure with a legal decision made last Friday by District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee who ruled that the White House must temporarily restore CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s suspended press pass. Earlier Monday, the White House backed down and CNN withdrew a lawsuit filed last week against the administration.
“Let’s be honest,” Dobbs said on Monday night’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. “Isn’t there a time where you have to tell a District Court judge to go to hell? … That was an idiotic ruling.”
(“Yes, it is the time shortly before you are held in contempt of court,” University of Southern California law professor Orin Kerr responded on Twitter.)
Harmeet K. Dhillon, a frequent Dobbs guest and corporate attorney (who serves as an RNC committeewoman from California), seemed uncomfortable with what the host suggested. “Your question was, ‘Should we tell the judge to ‘go to hell?’ The answer is: That’s generally not a good idea,” she said. (Dhillon declined further comment when asked if Dobbs’ comment was appropriate.)
“You shouldn’t have to tell a District Court judge to ‘get back in your bailiwick,'” Dobbs told his viewers. “You’re absolutely right,” Fox News commentator Gregg Jarrett responded, adding, “I would tell the judge, ‘Go to hell, we’re going to practice the way we want.'”
“A fundamental problem with extremists on both sides is that they love the Constitution until the rule of law doesn’t suit them anymore,” former Fox News contributor and retired Army lieutenant colonel Ralph Peters tells The Hollywood Reporter of Dobbs’ comments. “It’s stunning to me to watch and listen as former conservatives support Trump’s efforts to override and undercut the Constitution.”
On Oct. 25, Dobbs faced blowback for seemingly backing the conspiracy theory that pipe bombs were sent to CNN and prominent Democrats to help generate sympathy for the party on the eve of the midterm elections. “Fake News–Fake Bombs. Who could possibly benefit by so much fakery?” the host wrote on Twitter. He faced no public consequences for the comment, and a Fox Business spokeswoman said only that “Dobbs deleted his previous tweets and clarified his sentiment in a new tweet,” which still included the unfounded allegation that the bombs “were clearly designed to influence election.”
“He doesn’t seem to have any standards applied to him,” says Angelo Carusone, president of the left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters for America.
On his Oct. 31 show, just a few days after his network banned a Dobbs guest for saying that the State Department is “Soros-occupied territory,” the host laughed when a guest said that “it’s not anti-Semitic to criticize Soros,” referring to Jewish billionaire and conservative boogeyman George Soros. “I’m certainly glad that I didn’t just break away there,” Dobbs said.
Just last week, PolitiFact ruled that Dobbs lied when he said on air that “many” illegal immigrants voted in the midterm elections. “We found no basis for the Fox Business Network host’s claim about undocumented people voting in the midterms,” the nonpartisan organization said.
Asked to respond to the comments made by Dobbs and Jarrett, American Bar Association president Bob Carlson said in a statement to THR that his organization “strongly supports both an independent, impartial judiciary and a free press.”
Minnesota District Court Judge Kevin S. Burke, past president of the American Judges Association, went further: “Judges can make mistakes and should not feel they are immune from criticism. But the intemperate remarks of Mr. Dobbs demean him and those who believe comments like this help foster a better understanding of the law.”
While Dobbs’ position in Fox Business Network’s primetime lineup does not seem to be at much risk, he left his primetime show on CNN in 2009 after weathering a “Drop Dobbs” advertiser boycott movement that stemmed from his harsh rhetoric about immigrants. “In a weird way, Lou Dobbs was already vanquished, so it feels weird to be fighting a Zombie Lou Dobbs,” Carusone said Tuesday.
The Fox Business Network spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on what Dobbs said.
Nov. 23, 10:57 a.m. Updated with new statement from American Judges Association.
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