May 30, 2007


Truth, Fiction and Lou Dobbs (DAVID LEONHARDT, 5/30/07, NY Times)

Mr. Dobbs argues that the middle class has many enemies: corporate lobbyists, greedy executives, wimpy journalists, corrupt politicians. But none play a bigger role than illegal immigrants. As he sees it, they are stealing our jobs, depressing our wages and even endangering our lives.

That’s where leprosy comes in.

“The invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans,” Mr. Dobbs said on his April 14, 2005, program. From there, he introduced his original report that mentioned leprosy, the flesh-destroying disease — technically known as Hansen’s disease — that has inspired fear for centuries.

According to a woman CNN identified as a medical lawyer named Dr. Madeleine Cosman, leprosy was on the march. As Ms. Romans, the CNN correspondent, relayed: “There were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years.”

“Incredible,” Mr. Dobbs replied.

Mr. Dobbs and Ms. Romans engaged in a nearly identical conversation a few weeks ago, when he was defending himself the night after the “60 Minutes” segment. “Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy,” she said, again attributing the number to Ms. Cosman.

To sort through all this, I called James L. Krahenbuhl, the director of the National Hansen’s Disease Program, an arm of the federal government. Leprosy in the United States is indeed largely a disease of immigrants who have come from Asia and Latin America. And the official leprosy statistics do show about 7,000 diagnosed cases — but that’s over the last 30 years, not the last three.

The peak year was 1983, when there were 456 cases. After that, reported cases dropped steadily, falling to just 76 in 2000. Last year, there were 137.

“It is not a public health problem — that’s the bottom line,” Mr. Krahenbuhl told me. “You’ve got a country of 300 million people. This is not something for the public to get alarmed about.” Much about the disease remains unknown, but researchers think people get it through prolonged close contact with someone who already has it.

What about the increase over the last six years, to 137 cases from 76? Is that significant?

“No,” Mr. Krahenbuhl said. It could be a statistical fluctuation, or it could be a result of better data collection in recent years. In any event, the 137 reported cases last year were fewer than in any year from 1975 to 1996.

The only surprising this is that he hasn't reported about their using Christian babies to make tortillas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 30, 2007 7:05 PM

We all must agree that the Leprosy story is, well, unhinged.

So what? The faults of Mussolini do not make late trains a good thing.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 30, 2007 7:19 PM

We all must agree that the Leprosy story is, well, unhinged.

So what? The faults of Mussolini do not make late trains a good thing.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 30, 2007 7:23 PM

What? Lou Dobbs' train was late?

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 30, 2007 8:27 PM

Their unhingedness, reflected in the resort to eugenicist/Nazi memes, is the point. Their desire for an ""efficient" border is a separate question.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2007 9:34 PM

Lou was hyperventilating (in defense mode) a couple of weeks ago, when it was apparent how foolish he looked in discussing this.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 31, 2007 1:59 AM

Lou Dobbs is exactly what lefties who are forever yammering about 'Faux' News think O'Rielly is.

Posted by: Chris B at May 31, 2007 7:23 AM