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Dobbs Places Ports In a Storm of Coverage

The February 13 “Lou Dobbs Tonight” program was the first cable news outlet to report on Dubai Ports World’s (DPW) pending acquisition of six U.S. seaports, providing alarmist, biased coverage. Eight days later, after President Bush vowed to veto a bill blocking the acquisition, Dobbs was even worse.

The program devoted even more air time to the issue, skewing the coverage heavily against the Bush administration’s position, rhetorically asking critics of the port purchase “why on earth” such an “absolutely irrational” decision was made, without bringing on any guests who disagreed with Dobbs’s conclusions.

“It doesn’t seem to me anyone can be possibly worse than this administration on this issue,” Dobbs complained on his February 21 program as he concluded a discussion with security experts Frank Gaffney and Gordon Chang. “Can you come up with a national security reason to approve such a deal with the United Arab Emirates government-controlled company,” the CNN anchor asked Chang to open the interview. He later repeated his question to Gaffney, expanding it to include “any reason in the world” for the deal to gain final approval.

Earlier in his program, Dobbs asked the same of Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), wondering if there was “any way in the world to rationalize what seems from everyone that I have heard from an absolutely irrational decision?”

Yet for all of his curiosity, Dobbs left out any supporters of the administration decision, such as the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland. “If a terrorist incident occurred in one of its ports, the company would probably lose more business worldwide than a non-Arabic company would under the same circumstances,” the former Congressional Budget Office defense analyst wrote in a February 20 article on his think tank’s Web site.

Eland dismissed Dobb’s smear of the UAE which hinged on Emirati (residents of the UAE) citizenship of two of the 9/11 hijackers. Introducing the Dana Bash report which opened the program, Dobbs tossed out that “the United Arab Emirates has ties with the 9/11 hijackers,” but failed to substantiate his claim with any documentation, such as the 9/11 Commission report. That report found no state sponsorship of the September 11 attacks save that of the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

But if the fear of UAE ownership can be based on guilt-by-association, shouldn’t Dobbs be equally concerned about the British management of the ports? After all, wrote Eland, “the British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, was allowed to operate the ports… despite Richard Reid’s (the infamous “shoe bomber”) British citizenship,” and of course “American companies are permitted to operate some U.S. ports despite the fact that Timothy McVeigh, Jose Padilla, and other U.S. citizens are convicted or accused terrorists.”

Dobbs did not detail how many other industries he thought should be prevented from foreign ownership such as: defense, transportation, energy, chemical manufacturing, communications or even media.

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Written By

Mr. Shepherd is a staff writer for the Business & Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.

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