Sam Schechner, Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2009
Lou Dobbs, a CNN anchor known for his strong views on immigration, said his show Wednesday was his last for the cable-news network.
Mr. Dobbs has been a divisive figure both inside and outside Time Warner Inc. He used his show to promote his views on illegal immigration, and kept alive questionable assertions about President Obama’s birthplace.
Mr. Dobbs is a proponent of strict enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
“Some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem-solving,” and “to continue to do so in the most honest and direct language possible,” Mr. Dobbs said on his show.
Mr. Dobbs reserved kind words for CNN, saying he was “proud” to help build Atlanta-based CNN from its inception. “I’m the last of the original anchors here on CNN.”
Jon Klein, CNN president, said Thursday that veteran reporter King will move into the 7 p.m. EST slot that’s been vacated by Lou Dobbs. King will host a show about politics beginning early next year.
Dobbs announced abruptly Wednesday evening that it would be his last show on CNN. He said he wanted to pursue more advocacy journalism, a route that was no longer available to him on CNN.
King has been a top political reporter at CNN since 1997, when he joined from The Associated Press. He hosts the Sunday program, “State of the Union,” which he will be giving up early next year.
He said Thursday that he wants his show to bring more depth to issues, to get beyond a phrase like “public option” to explain what it really means. There will be provocative discussions, and guests with many different opinions will be welcomed.
“I’m going to do what I think needs to be done,” he said. “I think over time that viewers, if they compare and contrast, will be getting more meat” from his show than his competitors.
The Washington-based show doesn’t have a name yet. He wouldn’t comment on Dobbs’ exit: “I don’t see any value today in looking into the rearview mirror,” he said.
Dobbs had become a target of criticism from liberal and Latino advocacy organizations for his campaign against illegal immigration, and sparred with CNN management over the summer when he talked about questions over President Barack Obama’s birth site after CNN reporters had found nothing to substantiate the issue. CNN management pressed Dobbs to keep his opinions to himself–at the same time Dobbs was doing an unrelated daily radio show as a commentator on various issues.
He said he was leaving CNN to pursue new opportunities. While those are unclear, he vowed to be a leader in the “national conversation” to restore “inspiration to our great free society and our market economy.”
He 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 that it was taking a non-biased approach to contrast with MSNBC and Fox.
Tom Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the leading Latino legal organization, said, “The Latino community can and should celebrate that Lou Dobbs is no longer on CNN.”
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from Dobbs’ home state of New Jersey and the Senate’s only Hispanic member, called it “addition by subtraction” for CNN.