Within hours of CNN Newsroom anchor Rick Sanchez bemoaning a purported increase in the number of hate groups, CNN correspondent Kitty Pilgrim provided some much needed network balance by reporting - get ready here - facts. On Thursday's CNN Newsroom, Rick Sanchez asked a question and then, as usual, provided his own answer:
SANCHEZ: Since the administration of Barack Obama began in this country, has there been a heightened sense of any kind of hate? We first started discovering this last night in one of the interviews we did.
But before we do that, I want to show you something now. I want you to just write down some numbers. These are hate groups in the United States, all right? Let's start with the first year. I think we're going to start with the year 2000 -- 602 hate groups at the time in the United States, as counted by the best resource on this, by the way, the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Now let's go to 2007. Uh-oh. It's going up, 888. Now let's go to 2008. Uh-oh. Going up again, 926.
Minutes later, Sanchez interviewed Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center:
POTOK: Well, as you suggested in your intro, there have been quite a growth over the last eight years.
Until about a year ago, that growth was driven almost entirely by these groups pushing the immigration issue and especially the idea that people with brown skin are kind of coming to destroy our country. In the last year, though, we have seen several other factors come into play, you know, the assent, obviously, of Barack Obama, the announcement by the Census Bureau that whites will lose their majority in this country along about the year 2042, and the crashing economy and worsening unemployment.
All of those things are very much playing into the continued growth of these groups. Frankly, I think we're in a very worrying situation. I think it could get quite a bit worse.
SANCHEZ: Well, what I'm hearing you say is, remember the movie "The Perfect Storm," when everything kind of came together? And you just outlined the three things. You have got the economy. You have got the residue of the nativist rhetoric in this country, and you have Barack Obama, a liberal African-American president, as the leader of our country.
When you put all those three things together, what do you -- what do we have to do? We do we foresee down the line?
POTOK: Well, I think, just as you suggest, it is a kind of a perfect storm of factors that at the very least favors the growth of these groups.
Only a few hours later on Lou Dobbs Tonight, correspondent Kitty Pilgrim provided a different perspective:
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Southern Poverty Law Center says absolutely hate crime -- hate groups in America are growing. They say the debate over immigration, the recession and the election of Barack Obama, the first black president, is animating more hate groups. But the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center today admitted there are no data on the increased recruitment of hate groups.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: It is a kind of perfect storm of factors that at the very least favors the growth of these groups. You know, whether they are actually able to translate all of these things into recruitment, you know, we have yet to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Now, we talked to the FBI today about the report. The FBI does not recognize the term "hate group." They told us they do not monitor individuals or groups of individuals based on what they think or they say, or because a group or individual espouses a cause. It's only when a line is crossed and when an act of violence is committed.
Now, by that measure, hate crimes are going down. The FBI uses data collected by state and local law-enforcement agencies, and this is what we've found. In 1995, hate crimes totaled 7,974. In 2007, 12 years later, they totaled 7,624. That's a decline of 4 percent.
Meanwhile, the U.S. population rose 16 percent in that period of time. So, hate crimes are definitely declining, according to the FBI. And it's interesting, Lou, what the Southern Poverty Law Center defines as a hate group. They say it's based on ideology. It's not based on action. If you're included in this group, it's not based on criminality or violence or future...
DOBBS: Define a hate group, according to them.
PILGRIM: They say it's any group that thinks less of some other group, that thinks that they're inferior. That's their broadest definition, based on ideology, and that's how they define it.
DOBBS: Well, you know, that would not be an appropriate (ph) way to look at any group. But at the same time, one wonders how Mark Potok, the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center, could say that conditions favor the growth of hate groups, but they have no proof of recruitment. This is -- I mean, that's pretty pitiful, really. And I know a number of news organizations picking up and going with this, because they think it's a ratings-grabber.
PILGRIM: You really have to push this report to say, what are they really saying here. They're including nonviolent groups with violent groups. The definition is so utterly fuzzy on "hate group" that...
DOBBS: Which obviously the FBI, the Justice Department rejects.
PILGRIM: They absolutely do.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, cited by Sanchez as "the best resource on this," is itself an extremely liberal outfit. Typical is an article on its Website that warns "an array of right-wing foundations and think tanks support efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable." This dangerous array, we're told, includes the American Enterprise Institute, the Free Congress Foundation, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the John M. Olin Foundation, and David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture.
Rick Sanchez is a dependable liberal. He can find a reason to criticize America almost every day. By selectively airing viewer opinions that coincide with his own and repeatedly interviewing other liberals, his program is often flagrantly slanted.
Kudos to Kitty Pilgrim for, unlike Sanchez, getting past the ideological bluster and looking for the truth. Gee, I hope that doesn't hurt her career in journalism.