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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Rising Concerns About TB Threat; Is U.S. Government Protecting Food Supply?; New York Times Criticizes 'Lou Dobbs Tonight'

Aired May 30, 2007 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Thank you, Wolf. Tonight, rising concern about the threat to this country from tuberculosis, in part because our borders remain wide open nearly six years after September 11th. Incredibly, an American with a dangerous form of T.B. crossed into this country from Canada and wasn't stopped despite an alert for him. We'll have complete coverage.
Also tonight, new concerns the federal government is failing to protect our food supply. The government refuses to allow cattle producers to test their herds for mad cow disease. We'll tell you why in a special report.

The Catholic Church and the pro-illegal alien lobby organizing a cross country train trip. Yep, a train trip, to rally support for amnesty. We'll have that story.

And "The New York Times" criticizing me, accusing me of mistakes of fact of two years ago and four years ago. Tonight we'll set the record straight. We'll tell you who's really telling the truth and who the commies are and who the fascists are, who have the temerity to attack me. All that of that, all the days news, much more, straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, May 30th. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Health officials tonight are struggling to find people who traveled on two trans-Atlantic flights with an American infected with a highly dangerous and contagious form of T.B. The man is being treated in a hospital in Atlanta for what is called extensive drug-resistant T.B. The man drove back into this country from Canada after flying to Montreal from the Czech Republic.

Customs and Border Patrol agents were on alert for this man, but he was still able to cross our border undetected and not stopped. Elizabeth Cohen tonight reports from Atlanta on the global investigation into this T.B. scare. Jeanne Meserve reports on our apparently broken system that does not permit tracking international travelers with dangerous diseases almost six year after September 11th.

Barbara Starr tonight reporting from the Pentagon on the war from Iraq and whether or not our troop buildup will end the violence. We turn first to Elizabeth Cohen outside Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital. Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, there are several pieces of news to tell you about that have happened today. First of all, the man who is in isolation behind me at Grady Memorial Hospital here in Atlanta, he is scheduled at some point, and we don't know when, to go to National Jewish Hospital in Denver where they do specialized surgery specifically for people with this extensively drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. When he goes, we have not been told.

The second piece of information that came out today from the CDC is that this man wasn't just on two flights, those trans-Atlantic flights we heard so much about, he was on seven flights. He was on five flights within Europe. Now, CDC officials say they're not really worried about the passengers on those short flights. They say that you really have to be with someone for at least eight hours on a plane to get infected, but they have released the various airlines and flight numbers in case people want to get themselves checked out.

Now what we can tell from now is that on two of these seven flights, this man knew he had extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, but still got on the plane. Lou?

DOBBS: Do we know, Elizabeth, why he decided, despite the warnings, why he decided to travel?

COHEN: No, we don't know. What we do know is that in the very beginning before we got on any planes, he was in Atlanta. Fulton County authorities sat down here with him and said you have T.B. They didn't know he had a horrible form of T.B., but they said you have T.B. and we don't think you should get on a plane. He said, how about if I wear a mask? And they said, well, in that case, we guess it would be OK.

DOBBS: Oh my goodness. All right. Elizabeth, thank you very much, Elizabeth Cohen of Atlanta.

Health officials say that man at the center of this tuberculosis scare ignored warnings not to travel overseas, but he insisted on going to Europe for an overseas wedding and a honeymoon. Afterwards, he entered the country by road, crossing our border through a port of entry without being detected. Jeanne Meserve has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The man with tuberculosis slipped out of Rome on Wednesday, May 23rd. He tells the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," he intentionally eluded authorities after being told his name was on the no-fly list and his passport flagged. Health authorities say they immediately tried to find him.

DR. MARTIN CETRON, CDC: We reached out on Thursday afternoon to federal partners to see what options there were to get help in identifying where the individual may be, and what we could do to alert potentially folks at international airports so they would let us know if they had found him.

MESERVE: But it was too late. The individual was already on a Czech Air flight from Prague to Montreal. He then traveled by car from Montreal to the Champlain border crossing in New York, but the man had bought another airplane ticket on a later, June 5th Air France flight from Europe to Atlanta, according to a homeland officials.

Based on that, customs and border protection had already been asked to look out for the individual and isolate him. Although the information had been disseminated to all air, land and sea ports of entry, including the one in Champlain, the man was not stopped.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: A U.S. citizen does not have to show a passport when crossing the U.S./Canadian border, and an official says the T.B.- infected man may have willfully deceived border officials, but they're also investigating whether a CBP officer messed up and the matter is referred to DHS internal affairs and the inspector general. Lou?

DOBBS: Jeanne, first it's incredible. As you know in this broadcast, we report about borders that are wide open in this country, a great concern in terms of potential terrorists, drug traffic, but we're talking about a person entering this country through a port of entry lawfully and not being detected, a man for whom there is an alert. It's inconceivable that all these years after September 11th that the system still does not work.

MESERVE: Well, it certainly appears that there was some kind of problem in this instance, and that's exactly why the Department of Homeland Security has gone ahead and dispatched its inspector general to look into this, as well as their internal affairs division. They aren't crossing out any possibilities now to what might have happened. Others are looking into it too, the House Homeland Security Committee announced that they'll be holding a hearing next Wednesday to look into exactly what happened here and how this guy got in.

Thank you very much, Jeanne Meserve, reporting from Washington.

Turning now to the war against radical Islamists, the Pentagon says an American Chinook helicopter has shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan. Official say seven people aboard the Chinook were killed, five crew members and two passengers. That helicopter went down in the southern part of the country, where NATO troops have been engaged in fierce battles with the Taliban.

Four more of our troops have been killed in Iraq, one from what the military calls non-battle causes; 119 of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month, making this the third deadliest month of the entire war; 3,470 of our troops have been killed, 25,6891 troops wounded, 11,526 of them seriously.

The Pentagon today insisted U.S. strategy against the insurgents in Iraq is working. The military has 20 combat brigades now in Iraq, compared with 15 before the so-called surge, but so far there's been no decline in violence in Baghdad and surrounding provinces. Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fifth and final brigade of the U.S. troops that are part of the security crackdown has now arrived in Iraq. In just 12 weeks, the top commander, General David Petraeus, is supposed to tell President Bush if the new strategy is working.

BRIG. GEN. PERRY WIGGINS, DEP. DIRECTOR FOR REGIONAL OPERATIONS: We're starting to see a shift in momentum that comes with having additional ground forces on the ground.

STARR: Whatever success there is has come at a heavy price. More than 450 troops have died in the five months that the president began sending 30,000 additional forces to Iraq. At least 220 have died in the last eight weeks. Iraqi civilians are also suffering greatly from suicide bomb attacks and sectarian murders.

Iraq's Interior Ministry says the number of bodies found in Baghdad alone this month has surpassed the 585 victims of sectarian violence for the entire country in the month of April.

Insurgents show little inclination to stop their attacks. The U.S. now believes an Army helicopter was shot down Tuesday by machine gun fire in Diyala Province. The investigation is looking to whether or not rescue crews on the ground were ambushed. Six troops were killed by IEDs on their way to the crash site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does look like this was a complex attack.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, Lou, the military keeps talking about one bright spot in Iraq, and that's al Anbar province out in the west. You'll remember the place where Fallujah and Ramadi is located. In that area, violence is down, attacks are down and rebuilding is going on. The military now has to figure out, of course, how to make that happen in the rest of Iraq. Lou?

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much. The idea that a helicopter is shot down, and that our troops moving in armored vehicles to it for rescue and recovery could be then brought under attack, that is indeed a sophisticated operation, is it not?

STARR: Well, it is, and that is a technique that has been seen more than once in helicopter shoot-down incidents or when rescue forces are trying to get to the scene of an incident, they come under attack. That helicopter incident you mentioned just a few minutes ago in Afghanistan U.S. helicopter down in that country, the latest breaking news, Lou, is that when a rescue unit tried to get there to help that Chinook, they came under attack, came under ambush as well in Afghanistan, so this is an emerging insurgent tactic of great concern to the military, Lou.

DOBBS: Absolutely. Thank you very much, Barbara Starr, reporting from the Pentagon.

The Pentagon and White House no longer refer to the war in Iraq as the long war, but that doesn't stop the White House today from comparing the situation in Iraq to South Korea. The white house says our troops in Iraq could eventually move to what it termed a purely support role like American troops in South Korea. We should point out that nearly 30,000 American troops remain in South Korea, many of them in frontline, combat-ready roles. Those troops have been in South Korea for more than half a century.

Still ahead here tonight, the "New York Times" takes issue with our reporting, they take issue with me. I take issue with the "New York Times." We'll tell you all about it.

Also, a major legal setback for working American men and women fighting against pay discrimination. We'll have that story.

And disturbing new evidence that the federal government is ignoring the rising threat to the safety of our food supply, refusing to take action. We'll have the report.

And is TV actor and former Senator Fred Thompson on the brink of formally announcing his run for the presidential nomination. It is beginning to look a far more likely prospect. We'll have the story. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Fred Thompson today taking a step closer to formally running for the presidential nomination. Sources closer to the senator, the former senator, tell us Thompson will begin to raise money and hire a campaign staff perhaps as early as this Friday. Bill Schneider reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With 10 Republicans already running for president, what would Fred Thompson bring to the race? As an actor he's well known. As a former senator, he's well connected.

DAVID WINSTON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He is well known with a sort of soft level, but in terms of the details about him, I think one of the challenges for him is he's going to have to flesh those out.

SCHNEIDER: Thompson is conservative.

FRED THOMPSON, (R) FORMER SENATOR: You have to make the lower tax case again, but you have to make it every day in Washington, DC.

SCHNEIDER: The anti-Washington theme can be heard in his criticism of immigration reform, including the promise to secure the border.

THOMPSON: Putting it on a piece of paper, even passing it into law, does not convince the American people that they will do what they say they're going to do.

SCHNEIDER: Thompson joined John McCain in supporting campaign finance reform, an anti-Washington cause that was not popular with conservatives. Thompson has been a senator, a lobbyist and Washington lawyer going all the way back to Watergate when he served as chief Republican counsel, but he runs as a Washington outsider.

When he first ran for the Senate in 1984, Thompson wore a flannel shirt and drove a pickup truck all over Tennessee, calling for term limits. He still plays the role of outsider.

THOMPSON: Just being a country lawyer and enjoying life.

SCHNEIDER: To prove he as an outsider, he got out. He left the Senate in 2002. Good timing, because that's when the Bush administration started to get in trouble. Now, once again, Thompson is positioned to run against Washington.

THOMPSON: I think the biggest problem that we have today is what I believe is the disconnect between Washington, DC and the people of the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: At a time when voters have lost confidence in the administration and are desperate for change, and anti-Washington candidate could be very interesting, especially a Republican. Lou?

DOBBS: Any anti-Washington candidate sounds interesting to me, you know, the idea of this, but I have to say, you're the expert here, Bill, getting out in 2002 looks like some of the best political timing I've ever seen for anybody that called themselves a member of the Republican Party.

SCHNEIDER: It was very smart, it was very shrewd. And of course he had pledged that he would serve no more than two full terms, but he only served one full term and two years of Al Gore's term. That's what he ran for in 1994. So he didn't even fill two full terms. He just got out because he said he was frustrated in Washington, it was impossible to get anything done.

DOBBS: Well, I would say he's been proved right again. The idea that Fred Thompson's entering, I love that soft kind of judgment on his identification and appeal. He scares the Dickens out of these guys, doesn't he?

SCHNEIDER: He does. And if he got into the race -- Look, even without running he's already in the top two or three of the Republican candidates, so he looks like he might be a formidable contender.

DOBBS: Outstanding. Thanks for bringing us that, Bill. Bill Schneider from Washington, our senior political analyst.

Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain criticizing his fellow Republicans over their stands on immigration. The senator, a supporter of the Senate's grand compromise on immigration, two of his rivals for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani oppose that Senate deal, McCain challenging them to come up with something better. And of course if you want to let your senators know how you feel or your congressmen, go to our Web site and it will give directions on how to contact those people directly by e-mail on loudobbs.com.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts now.

John in Ohio said, "I sent the following message to President Bush: Your comments about Americans who disagree with you about your border proposal are insulting. Americans are not stupid and we're not unpatriotic simply because we disagree with your position. I resent the implication."

And Lois in California said, "Let me get this straight. We can buy poisoned food from communist China, but we can't buy a good cigar from Cuba. God help us."

Antonio in Ohio. "Lou, how is it that we can import tainted food from Asia but not import medicine from Canada. Oh yeah, the medicine from Canada is unsafe. I forgot."

We'll have more of your thoughts coming up here later.

More disturbing news tonight about this nation's food supply. The Bush administration is refusing to allow private companies to test cattle for mad cow disease, a federal judge, however, ruling that such tests must be allowed. Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn't want U.S. cattle producers to test for mad cow disease. The USDA controls the testing kits and won't let individual producers do their own testing. President Bush says that's just fine.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: In the last three years we've conducted over 800,000 tests to assess the health of our cattle herds. Thanks to these and other science-based measures we've had helped the farmers and ranchers manage any possible BSE risk in the cattle population.

PILGRIM: The USDA tests on cattle they think are at risk for carrying the disease. That is a fraction of cows, less than one percent. Some big industry beef producers like that system and don't want the cost and burden of additional tests.

"Everyone has to meet the same standards and this additional testing doesn't provide any additional safety," but some small beef producers see an advantage to selling beef with additional testing.

Kansas beef producer Creekstone Farms, sued for the right to test its own cows. A federal judge ruled that individual producers should be allowed to do that. The ruling was to take effect June 1st, but the USDA has appealed. PROF. JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: The Bush administration has really gone out of its way to fulfill the stereotype of a country that is not doing enough to test its own beef. I mean, around the world this is viewed as caving in to a few very large companies who don't want the test of their meat, and therefore won't let anyone test meat for the market.

PILGRIM: To date only three cases of BSE have been found in this country. The USDA says statistically there could be only four to seven cases out of 42 million cows.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, the USDA insists that it should regulate the tests, not the producers, and the agency says the disease is very rare, widespread testing would only turn up false results they say, which would confuse the consumers, Lou?

DOBBS: Well, how about protecting the consumers instead of the condescending attitude that consumers will be confused? They have a responsibility to be testing food, to protecting us from imported food. What kind of nonsense are they saying with those false positives? That they don't have an adequate test for mad cow disease?

PILGRIM: They don't test every cow in this country and think say it's not practical, but they won't let the producers test the cows.

DOBBS: Well, we talked about the issue of small producers versus corporate, large producers. The issue is, to me frankly, is very simple. It's about consumer protection and that is their responsibility. I don't care whether you're a big producer or small producer, it's the right way to go, obviously.

But, of course, the obvious is not always apparent to our friends in Washington, DC. Kitty, thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.

And that's the subject of our poll tonight. The question is, do you believe the Department of Agriculture should test American cattle for mad cow? Yes or no. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. Results will be coming up here later.

Up next, the Supreme Court hands down a landmark ruling on pay discrimination. We'll tell you why this decision is a setback for working Americans.

And the Catholic Church planning a good old-fashioned train trip across America. They have got an agenda, and the agenda is amnesty.

And then, the "New York Times" challenging our reporting and just kicking me right in the -- they're kicking me. I'll share my thoughts about what the "Times" had to say and we'll set the record straight here. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A major legal setback for workers in this country, the Supreme Court limiting employees' ability to file lawsuit against pay discrimination. That ruling puts pressure on employees to file lawsuits even before some of them are fully prepared to do so. Lisa Sylvester has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lilly Ledbetter took on the corporation she worked for. The court records show that she was paid substantially less than her male co-managers at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsden, Alabama.

LILLY LEDBETTER, FORMER GOODYEAR EMPLOYEE: A lot of women, minorities, are not being paid as fairly as they should be in the workforce, and there is also very little, it's very difficult to do anything about it.

SYLVESTER: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a jury ruled in Ledbetter's favor, but they limited her lawsuit to only claims filed within 180 days of when the alleged discrimination first took place. The U.S. Supreme Court in a narrow five to four split sided about Goodyear and handed big business a major year. Justice Samuel Alito said "A filing deadline protects employers from the burden of defending claims arising from employment decisions long past."

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a sharply worded dissent said, "In our view, the court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination."

Womens' groups say it's a setback for not only women but also minorities.

MARCIA GREENBERGER, NATIONAL WOMEN'S LAW CENTER: It clearly is going to make it up more difficult for women and others who face pay discrimination to get equal pay in the workplace and since women today only earn about 77 cents on average compared to every dollar that a male coworker earns, this is hardly the time to weaken our equal pay laws.

SYLVESTER: Lilly Ledbetter says even though she did not win her case before the high court, she hopes other women will speak out when they feel their companies are discriminating against them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Goodyear responded, saying the decision, quote, "endorses the company's long-standing tolerance policy toward any type of discrimination which also encourages employees to report concerns about discrimination in a timely fashion," end quote.

Now, this was a major victory for corporations and a loss for employees. The National Women's Law Center is now lobbying Congress for a change in the law. Lou?

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much. Lisa Sylvester from Washington. Welcome back and again congratulation. SYLVESTER: Thank you.

DOBBS: Lisa just got married. Glad to have you back.

SYLVESTER: Coming up next, President Bush blasting critics of his grand compromise on what he calls reform of immigration law. One of those critics is John Fonte, senior fellow with the Hudson Institute. He's among our guests here tonight.

Also many leaders of the Catholic Church hell-bent on ignoring separation of church and state stepping in to the fray over illegal immigration. The author of "God on Trial" Peter Irons joins me.

And the "New York Times" criticizing this broadcast, accusing me of mistakes of fact, two years ago, four years ago. We'll bring a back those echoes of the past and we'll set the record straight and give the "New York Times" some facts to chew on as well. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The Catholic Church, and other pro-illegal alien lobbying groups finding new ways to promote amnesty. As Casey Wian now reports, they're taking a cross-country trip by rail in order to highlight the accomplishments of illegal aliens.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They call it the Dreamers' Train. Actually, there will be four trains carrying 100 immigrants to Washington, D.C., next month. Along the way, they plan to share their stories of success after they or their parents came to the United States, in some cases illegally.

REV. GIOVANNI BIZZOTTO, DREAMS ACROSS AMERICA: The Bible reminds us you shall treat a stranger, the migrants who resides with you, no differently than the natives born among you.

WIAN: Dreams Across America participants plan to lobby members of Congress, who are likely to still be debating the issue of illegal alien amnesty when the trains arrive in the nation's capital in mid- June.

MARIA ELENA DURAZO, L.A. COUNTY LABOR FEDERATION: We are not promoting any piece of legislation. We want all legislation to reflect the dreams of these men and women.

WIAN: Some of the Dreamer stories are already on the group's web site, including an interview with California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, the child of immigrant farm workers.

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney is another supporter.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: There is a tremendous degree of hypocrisy with these religious leaders who are standing up and portraying themselves as morally superior, because they are helping some illegal immigrants who are here in our society.

Well, who are they hurting by helping those illegals? No. 1, they're hurting the American people, whose jobs are being taken, but they're also hurting people who would like to come here legally and are obeying our laws and waiting to immigrant here legally.

WIAN: The Dreams across America web site also provides a link to the story of another son of immigrants, New Mexico governor and 2008 presidential candidate Bill Richardson.

However, a spokesman for Richardson's campaign says the governor is not associated with Dreams Across America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Perhaps a better name would be the Amnesty Train, because that's the goal of many Dreams Across America supporters. They're appearing more desperate as the so-called comprehensive immigration reform efforts stalls in Congress -- Lou.

DOBBS: So I guess we could call it the A Train. Is that right?

WIAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: All right. Casey, thanks. Casey Wian, from Los Angeles.

Much of the talk surrounding the Senate's illegal immigration bill is centering on low-skill jobs, but high-skill jobs are also at stake. As Bill Tucker now reports, that legislation could discourage college students from pursuing degrees in both mathematics and science.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to science and math, the president and his administration like to talk a tough game.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future and our country is more competitive by strengthening math and science skills.

TUCKER: But the president's talk doesn't match his walk. He's endorsed the grand immigration compromise in the Senate, a compromise that puts industry first, not students, by exploding the size of the H1-B visa program from 65,000 to 180,000.

Worker activists and organized labor call the move shameless.

DAVID COHEN, AFL-CIO: There is absolute inconsistency, a complete 180-degree contradiction, between the notion that we want to encourage our kids to go into these fields, and the notion that we're going to depress wages in these fields, and then ensure that the jobs are offshore.

TUCKER: Our colleges and universities are graduating more than 300,000 students a year with bachelors, masters or Ph.D.'s in computer or information science, math and engineering, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the Computing Research Association.

Three hundred thousand a year, yet the Department of Labor projects the average yearly job creation in those fields will only be 120,000 jobs.

There's no shortage of workers. There are a string of reports from the GAO and from independent studies showing that H1-B workers are paid less than American workers.

And researchers at the Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering surveyed 68 companies and found they weren't going offshore because of any shortages of engineers or deficiencies in American workers. It was, and is, all about cost savings.

TODD TOLLEFSON, WASHTECH: If the higher-paying wage jobs are either leaving the country or beginning -- being given to workers coming in from another country, how are we going to continue to fund our tax base?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Leading to another very simple question: why would our children even consider the fields of math and science or engineering if their government is so committed to giving those jobs away, Lou, or even worse, suppressing the wages of those jobs that stay here?

DOBBS: Yes. It's frightening that we have provided so few incentives. I'm not talking about really direct incentives, not just the labor market, the job market, but direct incentives to encourage our young people to study mathematics and science, a critical national need.

Bill, thank you very much. Bill Tucker.

Now, if I may, a personal note tonight that I'd like to share with you.

I've been over the years, because of our reporting on controversial issues and my strongly held beliefs on those issues, attacked -- and usually pretty vigorously -- by both the left wing and the right wing of this nation's media, both mainstream and otherwise, and of course the politicians that form the extremes of our political spectrum.

As a matter of fact, I'm regularly attacked by the right wing -- the biggest business lobbyists in the country, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, the Bush administration -- for my criticism of so-called free trade policies and outsourcing.

I'm regularly attacked by the left wing as well -- the Southern Poverty Law Center, "The New York Times," "The Nation," MALDEF and MEChA -- for my opposition to illegal immigration.

Today, "The New York Times" published a column that picks up where an advertisement, a paid advertisement in "The Times," paid for by the Southern Poverty Law Center, left off two weeks ago.

Today's "New York Times" column is primarily a personal attack on me, focuses on an ad-lib on the set of this broadcast uttered more than two years ago by Christine Romans on a number of cases of leprosy in this country. An unscripted ad-lib, not a report -- by the way, we've never done a report on leprosy until we had to set this record straight a couple of weeks ago. That's over four and a half years of reporting on that issue.

The second issue, accusing us of overstating the number of non- citizens in our federal prisons. That number reported on this broadcast three and a half years ago.

Now, no one hates making a mistake, I assure you, more than I do. And on this broadcast, we do make mistakes -- not often, mind you, but certainly enough to frustrate me mightily, and with barely tolerable frequency.

But today's scurrilous personal attack from "The New York Times" columnist David Leonhardt, carrying the water of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also has the facts wrong.

He wrote that I said, quote, that "One third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants." That isn't what I said. I didn't say anything close to it.

We reported that one-third of the federal prison population three and a half years ago were non-citizens. The columnist said the number was 6 percent. The exact number of the year in question was 29.3 percent for fiscal year 2001. And by the way, we're putting up links on our Web site, loudobbs.com, so you can check the numbers for yourself.

I introduced that report three and a half years ago by saying the number of illegal immigrants in our prisons was increasing and the financial burden rising. Well, we had to go back and check, and because our correspondent no longer has his notes to support that statement, that the number of illegal immigrants within a prison population of non-citizens, I have to retract it here tonight, and I apologize to you for the necessity of doing so. But like I said, I do make mistakes.

Let's look at a few other issues, however, raised by "The New York Times," including that columnist's statement that none of the enemies of the middle class, he said I said, "play a bigger role than illegal immigrants."

Well, again, that's just not true. I've made perfectly clear over the years that corporate power, expressed by lobbyists spending billions of dollars each year in Washington to influence both political parties and public policy represents the greatest single threat to this nation's middle class.

That columnist also said I gave air time to white supremacists, and mentions one by name, Madeleine Cosman, who wrote the article that Christine Romans used as a source for her later leprosy statement. The fact is, I made a mistake, and I've said we would never have used her as a source if we had known of her controversial background two years ago, at the time of the offending ad-lib. But the columnist fails to note that his own paper wrote a glowing obituary of Madeleine Cosman when she died last year.

And the columnist writes that I suggested that new immigration reform bill would be the first step to a North American union. Nope. What I did say is that the proposed legislation, favored by President Bush and Senator Kennedy and others who are misguided, contains language in Section 413 that, if approved by Congress, would endorse and legitimize the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which is the foundation of this administration's efforts to create a North American union, and which would further threaten, in my opinion, our national sovereignty.

Well, as I said tonight at the outset, I don't like personal attacks from both the left and the right wings, but I'm getting kind of used to it. I will assure you that we'll continue to report on the nonpartisan independent reality that is too often overwhelmed by the ideologues in our national media, the left wing and the right wing.

And I'll guarantee you this: Those attacks from the left and the right will continue. They perhaps may get even a little more energetic. And as long as they continue to do so, you and I can rest assured that we're doing more right than wrong on this broadcast.

Coming up here next, the grand compromise on illegal immigration. I'll be talking with John Fonte of the Hudson Institute.

And the blurring of the division between church and state. Peter Irons, author of the new book, "God on Trial", joins me here next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, the blurring of the line, if you will, between church and state over illegal immigration is just one area where politics and religion are clashing.

My next guest is the author of the book "God on Trial". It's a new book on the court battles over the issue of separation of church and state in this country, and author Peter Irons is kind enough to join us tonight.

Peter, good to have you here.

PETER IRONS, AUTHOR, "GOD ON TRIAL": Great to be here.

DOBBS: The -- I have to say, as I was saying to you earlier, it's very instructive. I find it fascinating. I think it's an extraordinarily important issue, I think most of us do right now because of the issues that are driving us.

What do you consider to be the most seminal decision in terms of what we're confronting today? That is a host of activists: evangelical, Jewish, Catholics, and, to a lesser and more recent degree, Muslims in this country?

IRONS: What I've been doing, Lou, is traveling around the country, visiting communities in which there have been recently some real conflicts over religion in the public square, and many of these involved symbols.

You might add -- the cross, for example, in a public park in San Diego, posting the Ten Commandments or the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. And a lot of people might say, what's the big deal? You know, why get so exercised about this?

But in fact, the evangelicals on one side, and the church/state separationists on the other side really do think these are important issues, because they divide Americans in a very fundamental way.

DOBBS: They divide, but yet they've been here. I mean, as you point out, I believe you said the first real active definition came about in 1947 in terms of the issue of church and state. God, religion was unified, a unifying force in this country in all denominations up until then. It certainly changed, and I would agree with you.

Does it trouble you that we're seeing it as a divisive force in many cases now? And does it make sense that it was a unifying force before that?

IRONS: Well, in the first place, I don't think it was that much of a unifying force. I mean, we had a national consensus. After all, the Supreme Court said in 1896, this is a Christian nation. That was true then, as a fact. It's true today as a fact.

But in terms of the law and how the courts interpret the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, there's never been an agreement. We've had a lot of divisions over religion in the last 20 years or so. They're not -- they're not ending; they're accelerating.

DOBBS: So what is -- let's get to the issue of whether it be praying in school, in classrooms, whether it be the issue of under -- one nation under God, whether it be "in God we trust" on our currency. Where would you have us -- where would you have us go?

IRONS: That's a great question, because it's a matter, really, of degree. You know, "in God we trust" on the currency, everybody's got it in their pocket. Very few people get excited.

DOBBS: More people are offended by the lack of that currency than they are...

IRONS: Well, that's -- that's quite true. But if you have a cross, for example -- I'll use an illustration.

I lived in San Diego for 22 years. I drove past that cross every single day. It's on the highest peak in the city. You can't miss it, 43 feet tall, and it's in a public park. Most people like it there.

And they get very upset when somebody says, "It doesn't belong in a public park. Let's move it to a church or let's replace it with a non-sectarian war memorial on top of Mt. Soledad."

And -- but at the same time there's so much feeling about these things, and it's entering into the political discourse right now.

DOBBS: Whether it's illegal immigration, whether it -- a host of issues, but where would you lead us?

IRONS: Well, I think...

DOBBS: More symbols? Or fewer? Would you support prayer in school? Do you think we should recede from the sectarian in the public marketplace? In our public lives? Or should we preserve our traditions and our heritage as a religious nation?

IRONS: Well, it's a difficult balance. One of the things I found going to these communities is that the vast majority of the community really believes that this is their tradition, their heritage, and they don't want to give it up.

DOBBS: You're not going to help me.

IRONS: And on the other side -- it is a delicate balance. You remember when Fred Friendly had a whole show about it. The delicate balance of the Constitution. So how the courts try to resolve these issues is sort of a never ending process. You know, the...

DOBBS: The book, "God on Trial", is a fascinating read. It is educational and will give you some insight as to the direction that he would have us go, which he would not share with us tonight, because he is both politic and a promoter.

We thank you very much. It's a terrific book.

IRONS: Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: Thanks for being here.

Up next at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, what have you got going on?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. We're following a developing story, very ominous in Afghanistan. An American Army helicopter apparently shot down by enemy fire. Seven U.S. military personnel killed. We're going to get the latest from the Pentagon.

Also an exclusive interview with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. She's speaking out about the growing chill between Moscow and Washington. That goes to the Cold War.

And we'll also have details of a shocking claim by the Cuban president, Fidel Castro. He's accusing President Bush of ordering his assassination.

And another Republican poised to enter the race for the White House. Is Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, the actor, the candidate conservatives have been waiting for?

All that, Lou, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.

A reminder to vote in our poll tonight: do you believe the Department of Agriculture should be testing American cattle for Mad Cow Disease? Yes or no? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. The results are coming up here in just a few moments.

Up next the grand compromise on illegal immigration, facing rising criticism. I'll be talking with John Fonte of the Hudson Institute about the many flaws of this beautiful piece of legislative work for which so many senators and the president take such great pride.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: John Fonte, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote the article entitled "Comprehensively Bad Faux Immigration Reform". And he joins us here in New York now.

John, good to have you with us. The idea that this president is saying to people, according to the president, people are creating fear around this, that they're not doing what's right for America by resisting and criticizing and rejecting it. Your reaction?

JOHN FONTE, SENIOR FELLOW, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Well, the American Legion is strongly opposed to this bill, so I think they usually try to do what's right for America. That's the heart of what they've been doing for about six years. I think this is very bad for America.

DOBBS: Why?

FONTE: Just about everything wrong -- everything in the bill. It weakens border security. It does nothing about workforce enforcement. Even the merit system, the skills-based system is phony. Tom Sowell said every aspect of this bill is a fraud. He's the Stanford -- Harvard Hoover Institution writer. Every aspect.

DOBBS: The idea that border security is weakened, how so?

FONTE: Well, there's a one-day -- basically, it's a one-day amnesty. You're legal on Monday, and your security check has to occur in one business day. So whether you're a terrorist or a criminal, that's not possible, because these records aren't in a computer or database. You need paper records. You need foreign governments. It's not possible.

DOBBS: The idea, too, in section 413, the approval of the Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement led by this president, laying the foundation for the North American -- I mean, there are more strange things in this legislation. What offends you? What surprises you? FONTE: One thing that offends me quite a bit is the amnesty for gang members. The Immigration Enforcement Authority...

DOBBS: You just don't know what's right for America.

FONTE: Immigration Authority as it tried to round up -- there's 33,000 gang members, people like in, for example, MS-13, many of them murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and so on. They can get an amnesty if they sign a paper saying they renounce gang activity. That's all they have to do.

DOBBS: To renounce gang activity. The idea that -- well, the Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector has estimated the cost over 30 years of this legislation would be $2.5 trillion.

Why is there no -- because they've been working on this for two years. Why is it that the president, the White House, the executive branch, Congress, those who are leading this Congress and their support staffs don't have a distal impact statement of their own on the legislation that they are saying is right for America?

FONTE: Well, they've rushed it through. They didn't even have regular committee hearings. So this is a major piece of legislation, one of the most important immigration pieces of legislation in 40 or 50 years, and they didn't have hearings on it.

DOBBS: The idea that the American people are not represented here. You know, former senator Fred Thompson today saying he thinks one of the greatest issues is between the American people and their elected representatives in Washington. I think he's on to something there. He's been paying close attention.

But the idea that La Raza, socioethnic centered groups, the Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, represented in these discussions in which other senators weren't even permitted, as they're formulating this grand bargain. The American people have been frozen out. Will they have a voice here? Will they have any influence in your judgment over the outcome of this legislation?

FONTE: Well, if they raise their voices, they've raised their voices the past week. And senators and congressman have heard that, so if there's a big outcry, then elected officials often answer these questions and often respond.

You know, one thing that's interesting is Kris Kobach, I think you know him, basically the chief enforcement -- chief adviser to John Ashcroft.

DOBBS: Right.

FONTE: And he said this bill was an invitation for terrorists and criminal gangs, because they can get some phony documents and they'll be certified in one day. So he said if he was a terrorist leader, he'd just send people in that way.

DOBBS: Well, the other thing that I find hard to figure is why this bill would provide such a burden -- put such a burden on the Citizen Immigration Service that can't even function today, let alone add to it the burden of 12 to 20 million illegal aliens.

FONTE: It triples their workload.

DOBBS: Extraordinary. Thank you very much, John Fonte. Thank you.

FONTE: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Coming up here next, more of your thoughts and results of tonight's poll. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Now the results of our poll. Ninety-seven percent of you say the Department of Agriculture should be testing U.S. cattle for Mad Cow. Bad news for our Agriculture Department that doesn't want to do that.

Let's take a look now at more of your thoughts. Brian in Virginia said, "I'm deeply offended by the president's recent characterization of opponents to the current immigration legislation. Why would the majority of the American public support this reform effort when the government, under George Bush's leadership, has failed to secure our southern border in the past six years?"

Interesting question.

And Kenny of Texas: "How dare President Bush question our love for this county by stating that people who do not want to give America away, do not have the best interests of America in mind."

And Steve in Minnesota: "Lou, our president wants us to 'trust' him on immigration reform. Based upon what? The war in Iraq? Katrina? The price of gas? Or possibly the excellent job his administration has done so far to secure the southern border?"

And Bill in Florida: "As a Catholic, let me assure you that immigration is yet one more of the many issues on which American Catholics sharply differ with the church hierarchy."

And Mary in Indiana: "Lou, I'm a black female and I am appalled and insulted that a clergy would compare the work of Martin Luther King, who was trying to uphold the law, to Catholic priests, who advocate breaking the law."

Thank you for your thoughts. Send them to us at LouDobbs.com. And please join us here tomorrow night.

For all of us here, we thank you for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

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