Lou Dobbs’ refusal to drop “birther” stories about challenges to President Obama’s constitutional eligibility to hold office was a major source of contention with CNN management, leading the unconventional anchor to walk away from the network and more than $9 million, according to the New York Post.
Dobbs, known for his strong stand against illegal immigration, surprised his loyal viewers Wednesday night by announcing his resignation and offering no indication of his next move.
The Post, citing anonymous sources, said the beginning of the end of a long-simmering dispute came in July, when CNN President Jonathan Klein told Dobbs’ staff in a memo to stop reporting on lawsuits that demand Obama produce evidence he’s a natural-born American citizen, as required by the Constitution.
“It seems this story is dead because anyone who still is not convinced doesn’t really have a legitimate beef,” Klein’s memo said.
A source told the Post Klein’s move incensed Dobbs.
“They have been talking pretty regularly since then,” the source said. “And it’s been pretty bad.”
Dobbs, who also hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, told his radio audience in July that “even though I said I believe the president is a citizen of the United States, I don’t understand why he shouldn’t produce a birth certificate. My God, you’re talking about the third rail of American journalism, baby! That’s it. I’m not going to back off.”
The Post said CNN had long been asking Dobbs to “tone down his harsh rhetoric” on issues such as immigration.
Sources said CNN likely would not have renewed Dobbs’ contract in 2011, and the newsman’s agent told Klein that since both parties were unhappy, it would be best to release him now.
A television insider told the Post Dobbs was “polluting” the brand of the oldest cable news network, which is trying to position itself between the left-leaning MSNBC and conservative Fox News Channel.
A Fox News Channel spokeswoman told the Post her network wasn’t interested in hiring Dobbs.
Veteran Washington political correspondent John King will take over Dobbs’ 7 p.m. slot, CNN announced.
As WND reported, Dobbs told his radio audience Oct. 26 a gunshot was fired into his home after a series of threatening phone calls.
Dobbs said advocacy groups that support illegal aliens and have pressed for him to be fired “have created an atmosphere and have been unrelenting in their propaganda.”
Outspoken opponents of Dobbs include the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of La Raza, Internet media watchdog Media Matters and Geraldo Rivera of Fox News.
In his daily column today, WND CEO and Editor Joseph Farah calls Dobbs a “real newsman” whose departure from CNN after 30 years “leaves the network in a state of programming irrelevancy.”
“What makes Lou Dobbs so special,” Farah writes, “is his independence and fearlessness. Dobbs clearly set his own agenda. He had no interest in the ‘conventional wisdom’ of his industry. Dobbs thinks like a real American newsman – a throwback to an age when journalists actually believed they were watchdogs of government and asked tough questions in the interests of the people.”