The Coarsening of Our Political Dialogue

By Jerry Kammer on September 16, 2009

On "60 Minutes" last Sunday, President Obama said Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst was an example of the "coarsening of our political dialogue that I've been running against since I got into politics."

Last night's Univision newscast provided more intemperate outbursts for the president's consideration. They came in the form of condemnations of the "Hold Their Feet to the Fire 2009 Radio-thon" that wraps up today on Capitol Hill.

The event was organized by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which said in a press release that 47 radio hosts from around the country were assembling "to remind Congress and the new administration that rampant illegal immigration, efforts to grant amnesty, and taxpayer subsidized health care benefits to millions of law-breakers are hot button issues for the American public."

That point of view, while controversial, certainly is entitled to public discussion. And Lourdes Meluza, Univision's talented Washington correspondent, offered two participants -- Spanish speakers Edd Hendee of KSEV in Houston and FAIR's Jack Martin -- brief sound bites to present their concerns. It would be good journalism if Univision would actually send reporters into the field to examine how those concerns affect communities across the country. But the network almost always holds to a narrow story line that conforms to anchorman Jorge Ramos's belief that these concerns are manifestations of racism. Opposing views are generally reduced to soundbites.

The Ramos viewpoint was well represented in last night's report, in which Bishop Minerva Carcano of the United Methodist Church explained why she was part of a counter-demonstration on Capitol Hill.

"We want to say that racism is not acceptable, hate is not acceptable, discrimination, injustice are not acceptable," the bishop said.

Meluza said the counter-demonstrators intend to tell Congress about the source of "Hold Their Feet to the Fire." She spoke with Paco Fabian of America's Voice, who helped organize the protest. In an obvious reference to FAIR, Fabian said the source was "un centro de supremacia de la raza blanca," a white-supremacy center.

The religious figures who participated in the counter-demonstration "are worried about the tone and the tactics of organizations like FAIR," Meluza said. "They say they're creating a poisonous climate for all the immigrants in the nation."

Bishop Carcano and America's Voice, who seek to demonize those on the other side of the immigration debate, might consider why they themselves are whipping up incivility and hatred.