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, BastaDobbs.com, 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 Presente.org, a national online advocacy organization coordinating the BastaDobbs.com 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 ssued 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.
"We have not had any discussions with Lou Dobbs for Fox News or Fox Business," a spokeswoman for both channels said in response to an email inquiry from the "Sun" Wednesday night.
While CNN generally has lower prime-time ratings than its more 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 in 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.
Dobbs had two more years on the contract at CNN. Here is the ona-ir statement he made last night: