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Lou Dobbs to MSNBC: 'I have never hired an illegal immigrant'

October 8, 2010 | 12:31 am

Dobbs On Thursday night, Lou Dobbs delivered a defiant message to his detractors: "I have never hired an illegal immigrant, nor has any company that I own, and to suggest otherwise is absurd."

During an appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word," the former CNN anchor addressed reports made by a new piece in The Nation that he'd employed at least five illegal immigrants in the upkeep of his estates and the care of horses that his daughter uses for show-jumping. Because Dobbs has spent years rallying against individuals who employ undocumented workers, he said, he's been targeted by a “left-wing activist advocacy” publication, and "the mainstream media has leaped on this to suggest that I’m some sort of hypocrite."

"Last Word" host Lawrence O'Donnell and Isabel MacDonald, who wrote the piece in The Nation, both alleged that Dobbs was "splitting hairs" by denying that he'd hired these "illegals" without acknowledging whether or not they had worked for him. Eventually, Dobbs amended his statement. “The only person who would have been illegal in any context would have been a landscaper who was working for a contractor who was working on my house in Florida," he explained. "That may have happened. But that isn’t my employee ... and to suggest I hired the person who was illegal, if indeed [MacDonald] can document that there was someone illegal, is an absurdity.”

MacDonald wondered whether Dobbs was holding himself to a different standard than those he has criticized in the past. Three years ago on CNN, she said, he called private firms that oppose verification requirements for their contractors' employees "ridiculous." "Where does the buck stop?" she asked. 

But O'Donnell suggested that the question of whether Dobbs hired these workers directly or indirectly wasn't really the point. A California resident, he recalled all the times he'd ever visited a car wash or restaurant that employed illegal workers. "We all indirectly employ, hire, pay or give money to illegal immigrants," he concluded. "I know who I’m giving money to."

For Dobbs, the idea that he could have unknowingly hired "illegals" just proved that Americans need to get tough on immigration policy. “We cannot possibly reform immigration in this country ... unless we can control immigration," he said. "And we cannot control immigration until we can control our borders and our ports. That syllogism, that logic, remains in effect.”

-- Melissa Maerz

Photo: Lou Dobbs speaks about immigration at the National Press Club in Washington in 2007. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images

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