Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dobbs Done At CNN: Veteran CNN Anchorman Lou Dobbs Resigns On-Air

Dobbs Done At CNN: Veteran CNN Anchorman Lou Dobbs

Resigns On-Air

Longtime CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs announced his resignation on-air Wednesday night after almost 30 years at the all-news network.

After saying that he had a "personal note" for viewers just before the first commercial break at 7:10 p.m., Dobbs said, "This will be my last broadcast on CNN."

Dobbs, who was one of the original CNN anchors when Ted Turner started the channel, said he had been in meetings with CNN President Jonathan Klein who had agreed to let him out of his contract. In truth, CNN has been trying for months to find a way to part company with Dobbs who had become a liability because of his political views on such issues as immigration and the birth of President Barack Obama.

Dobbs had consistently been lending credence to the "birthers" movement, which claims President Barack Obama is not a U. S. citizen, and thus, not eligible to be president because he was not allegedly born in the United States.

The view has been widely and thoroughly discounted -- most notably by Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate. But despite such facts and a public warning from Klein to back off, Dobbs persisted.

The most recent embarrassment for CNN came with Latino groups protesting statements made by Dobbs urging more restrictive immigration policies even as the cable channel was premiering an important documentary series titled "Latino in America" from Soledad O'Brien last month.

Indeed, news of Dobbs' resignation was met Wednesday night with a statement of victory from another group organized against him,, a Latino-led coalition that had been advocating for his removal from the CNN airwaves in recent weeks.

“Our contention all along was that Lou Dobbs – who has a long record of spreading lies and conspiracy theories about immigrants and Latinos – does not belong on the ‘Most Trusted Name in News,’” said Roberto Lovato, co-founder of, a national online advocacy organization coordinating the campaign. “We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has this legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate.”

Media Matters, a liberal advocacy group, also issued a statement in the wake of the Dobbs' resignation.

“For too long, CNN provided Lou Dobbs with its stamp of approval as he pursued a dangerous, one-sided and all too often false conspiracy tinged crusade against immigrants,” said Eric Burns, president of Media Matters. “This is a happy day for all those who care about this nation of immigrants and believe in the power of media to elevate the political discourse.”

There had been rumors the last two months that Dobbs would be joining Fox News or the Fox Business Channel, but he said on-air that he has several "options" and "opportunities" without being specific. Fox has recently added several high-profile personalities like John Stossel, and it is looks less and less as if Dobbs will be joining Fox in the immediate future.

While CNN generally has lower prime-time ratings than its angry, opinionated competitors on the right and the left, it does have credibility and a kind of journalistic highground by "playing it down the middle." And that has paid off inj the past on big news events when viewers want verified facts and information provided without partisan spin.

But Dobbs' behavior the past few months has threatened the trust on which that success is based. Credibility is at the very heart of the CNN brand, and Dobbs' angry and polarizing rhetoric threatened that identity.

CNN's Klein had been trying to distance his cable channel from Dobbs by pointing out that long-time anchorman's most controversial statements were made on his radio show, which CNN did not control, not on the cable channel. But few were buying the argument, especially since Dobbs never seemed willing on-air to back down from his polarizing rhetoric.

Fox recently trounced CNN on the day and night of the Fort Hood shootings, the kind of breaking news event for which viewers used to turn to CNN for its trusted coverage. Some analysts believe Dobbs had already done serious damage to the CNN brand.

The pressure from protesters and critics had clearly been mounting. Two weeks ago, police were called to Dobbs home to investigate reports of a shot being fired at his house. While it might have been a stray bullet from a hunter given the semi-rural area in which Dobbs lives, according to police, the incident is still being investigated.



CNN's Lou Dobbs, a lightning rod for criticism following his transition from a business journalist to an opinionated anchor on such issues as illegal immigration, told viewers on Wednesday that he was quitting his nightly show to pursue new opportunities.

"This will be my last broadcast," Dobbs said after giving the day's headlines. Dobbs, who hosts a daily radio show unrelated to CNN, said the network had allowed him to be released early from his contract.

Dobbs was a CNN original, signing on when the cable network started in 1980. For much of that time, he hosted a nightly business broadcast that became one of the most influential shows in the corporate world, and CNN's most profitable show for advertising revenue.

But Dobbs said his world view changed after the 2001 terrorist attacks and corporate corruption scandals, and he began to more freely express his opinions. He was particularly persistent in bringing the immigration issue to the fore, winning him both higher ratings and enemies. Latino groups had an active petition drive seeking his removal.

His presence became awkward for CNN, particularly as it began emphasizing reporting and non-opinion shows. He angered management this summer by pressing questions about President Barack Obama's birth site after CNN reporters determined there was no issue.

Dobbs said the decision came after many months of discussion with CNN U.S. President Jon Klein. Dobbs said he wanted to concentrate on his role as a commentator and on advocacy journalism.

Klein hailed Dobbs' "appetite for big ideas, the megawatt smile and larger than life presence he brought to our newsroom."

"With characteristic forthrightness, Lou has now decided to carry the banner of ADVOCACY JOURNALISM elsewhere," Klein said. "We respect his decision."

Dobbs said he was proud of his role in helping to build the first cable news network. He said some leaders in media, politics and business "have been urging me to go beyond my role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem-solving."

Seated at an anchor desk in front of a screen with a fluttering American flag, Dobbs mentioned his interest in issues such as health care, jobs, immigration, climate change and the wars.

"Unfortunately, these issues are now defined in the public arena by partisanship and ideology rather than rigorous empirical thought and forthright analysis and discussion," he said. "I will be working diligently to change that as best I can."

His resignation was hailed by activists who were seeking his ouster.

"Our contention all along was that Lou Dobbs — who has a long history of spreading lies and conspiracy theories about immigrants and Latinos — does not belong on the most trusted name in news," said Roberto Lovato, co-founder of "We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has the legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate."

Tom Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the leading Latino legal organization, said, "I think the Latino community can and should celebrate that Lou Dobbs is no longer on CNN."

Dobbs did not immediately return telephone and e-mail messages to talk about his critics.

Although he joined CNN in 1980, Dobbs left the network for two year in 1999, after angrily complaining on the air about a decision by then-CNN President Rick Kaplan to switch away from his show to a live news event. An Internet venture failed and when Kaplan left CNN, Dobbs returned.

A decision on who will replace Dobbs is expected to be announced on Thursday.

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