Former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, pondering a future in politics, is trying to wipe away his image as an enemy of Latino immigrants by positioning himself as a champion of that fast-growing ethnic bloc.
Mr. Dobbs, who left the network last week, has said in recent days that he is considering a third-party run for a New Jersey Senate seat in 2012, or possibly for president. Polls show voters unhappy with both parties, and strategists believe Mr. Dobbs could tap populist anger over economy issues just as Ross Perot did in the 1990s.
First, though, Mr. Dobbs is working to repair what a spokesman conceded is a glaring flaw: His reputation for antipathy toward Latino immigrants. In a little-noticed interview Friday, Mr. Dobbs told Spanish-language network Telemundo he now supports a plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers, a stance he long lambasted as an unfair "amnesty."
"Whatever you have thought of me in the past, I can tell you right now that I am one of your greatest friends and I mean for us to work together," he said in a live interview with Telemundo's Maria Celeste. "I hope that will begin with Maria and me and Telemundo and other media organizations and others in this national debate that we should turn into a solution rather than a continuing debate and factional contest."
Mr. Dobbs twice mentioned a possible legalization plan for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., saying at one point that "we need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants under certain conditions."
Mr. Dobbs couldn't be reached Tuesday. Spokesman Bob Dilenschneider said Mr. Dobbs draws a distinction between illegal immigrants who have committed crimes since arriving in the U.S. and those who are "living upright, positive and constructive lives" who should be "integrated" into society. He said Mr. Dobbs recognizes the political importance of Latinos and is "smoothing the water and clearing the air."
Boy, some political consultants are really going to earn their pay on this one!