ABC's Sawyer: 'Vigilantes' Going 'Too Far' to Combat Illegals?

According to ABC anchor Diane Sawyer, a new Oklahoma law making it a felony for U.S. citizens to knowingly provide shelter or transportation to illegal immigrants goes "across the line," "too far," and turns people into "vigilantes." Interviewing Lou Dobbs, CNN host and noted opponent of illegal immigration, on Tuesday's edition of "Good Morning America," Sawyer appeared to be aghast at what she considered "turning people in" for offering assistance to illegals.

The GMA host even quizzed Dobbs about whether his problem is with Hispanics in general. After noting a new Census Bureau report that found last names such as Garcia and Rodriguez are increasing in number, she guardedly wondered, "To Lou Dobbs, is this a good thing or a bad thing?" After Dobbs responded in favor of legal immigration, Sawyer plowed ahead with her question about the new Oklahoma law. She incredulously queried, "People are vigilantes about transportation and shelter? Isn't that going too far?"

The CNN host, who was appearing to promote "Independents Day," his new book on politics and the '08 election, firmly responded by educating Sawyer to the fact that federal statutes already make it a crime to knowingly assist someone in breaking the law. This, of course, is the same journalist who, in September, appeared confused as to why anyone would label a John Edwards-floated idea to deny health care to Congress a "gimmick." (This was during an interview with Hillary Clinton. The senator slowly explained that Congress itself would have to approve such a plan.) The ABC host closed the immigration conversation by politely, but firmly, asserting, "We could go on all morning, you and I, and may some day, I hope."

Earlier in the interview, however, when Dobbs peddled his populist mantra about big corporations taking advantage of average Americans, the GMA anchor was nowhere near as combative. She jokingly asked if the cable host would be running for president and tossed him this softball about the other two political parties: "Why can't the Republican and Democratic parties get it done?"

Sawyer has made her opinion on immigration quite clear. In October, she traveled to Mexico to interview that country's president and report live on the state of the border. The ABC anchor alleged that emotional Americans, "fueled by anger" were driving the debate on the contentious issue.

A transcript of the November 20 segment, which aired at 7:40am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: We're going to turn now to CNN anchor Lou Dobbs creating a kind of revolution, if he has his way. He has a new book out called "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit." It's a swashbuckling review of what is broken in America, including the Republican and Democratic parties, if I read it right. And Lou Dobbs is with us this morning. It's good to see you.

LOU DOBBS: Great to be with you, Diane.

SAWYER: All right. You write, "Next November's surprise will be the election of man or woman of great character, vision and accomplishment, a candidate who has not yet entered the race." Are you saying that nobody in the race now has character, vision, accomplishment?

DOBBS: I'm saying that in my judgment, as I travel around the country, I don't think the American people believe that. There is so little, so little excitement, enthusiasm, for any one of these candidates, including the two front-runners in either party, that I truly believe we're going to see an independent populous emerge from some quarter of our society. I have not a clue where.

SAWYER: Not a clue? And look into my eyes, Lou Dobbs, because in the Wall Street Journal friends of Lou Dobbs were quoted as saying you were seriously contemplating running for president as an independent.

DOBBS: What kind of friend would, you know, urge that thinking on one, even in the Wall Street Journal, without being named? I -- you know, I -- that's not where my interests lies right now.

SAWYER: Not going to do it. Not going to be you?

DOBBS: I doubt that very seriously that anything like that could even possibly emerge.

SAWYER: All right. We had a doubt it seriously in there, parsing this, we didn't close the door completely. The other thing that you write is, "November 2008 could well be that a majority of Americans who consider themselves independents. I believe only an independent voter rebellion in effect will return the country to the common good and the national interest." Why can't the Republican and Democratic parties get it done?

DOBBS: I don't know, but over 30 years, Diane, as you've witnessed and chronicled, this country is --- we have gone into a malaise over 30 years because of our ruling elite, those are the elites in government, both political parties, business elites. We used to be able to turn to a CEO of a major corporation and say "We need you for public service." That is no longer the case in which there's a great commitment to public service on the part of corporate America. In fact, the commitment is neither to their employers, to their country, but rather to commerce and profits. At the end, corporate America is spending $2 billion a year lobbying in Washington to crowd out any representation of middle class, working men and women of their families.

SAWYER: Let me just turn if we can, because we can't cover all the issues you tackle in the book.

DOBBS: Sure.

SAWYER: But, as we know, you're so identified with the question of illegal immigration and what you think it's doing to this country. I just want to try to parse some of the things that have been happening in the last few days. For instance, news about illegal immigration, not illegal immigration, just immigration. The Census Bureau now says among the top ten names in America, along with "Smith" and "Johnson," still number one and two, for the first time, eight and nine are "Garcia" and "Rodriguez. To Lou Dobbs, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

DOBBS: To me, it's a good thing. Diversity is the strength of this country. This is the most socially, ethnically, racially, religiously diverse society on Earth. What in the world could be -- you know could better for this country? We bring in more legal immigrants into this country than the rest of the world combined.

SAWYER: So your question is only about where we draw the line on illegal immigration?

DOBBS: I don't have a question. My insistence is we follow the law in this country that we secure our borders. More than six years after September 11th, that we secure our ports.

SAWYER: But let me address something a lot of people think is really going across the line.

DOBBS: Sure.

SAWYER: For instance, recently, a new law just in effect in Oklahoma made it a felony not only to provide employment, a job, to an illegal immigrant, but how about this? Provide transportation or shelter?

DOBBS: Right, it's already --

SAWYER: People are vigilantes about transportation and shelter? Isn't that going too far?

DOBBS: Vigilantes? I think that's a law that should be --

SAWYER: Well, turning, turning people in for transportation or shelter--

DOBBS: It's already a felony, by the way to do so. It's against the law in this country to aid and abet anyone breaking U.S. law so we have a lot of people in violation on the federal level. Oklahoma did a, put together a strong powerful law in that state. In the state legislature and that government followed the will of the people. It is precisely that will that exists across this country. This is a welcoming nation. We have, as I said, we're the most racially divorce, socially diverse society on Earth. And we bring in more than two million legal immigrants. Why do you-- does anyone expect working men and women in this country, the middle class in this country, to accept being ignored, their will being ignored by the two political parties on the issue of illegal immigration, border security, the failure of public education, the failure to invest in our infrastructure. Who in the world are these arrogant elites who think that because they're in a branding mechanism called the Republican or Democratic parties, they have the right to ignore the will of the majority? It's the basic tenet of democracy, to represent the majority.

SAWYER: We could go on all morning, you and I, and may some day, I hope.

DOBBS: Look forward to it.

SAWYER: Thanks again. It is a really provocative book, as I said. And happy Thanksgiving to everyone at the Dobbs house.

DOBBS: You too. All the best.

SAWYER: "Independents Day" is now in the bookstores. You can read all about these issues and also an excerpt on ABCNews.com.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org