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Longtime anchor Lou Dobbs leaving CNN

Lou Dobbs, the longtime CNN anchor whose anti-immigration views have made him a TV lightning rod, said Wednesday that he is leaving the cable news channel effective immediately.
Dobbs-Bullet
New Jersey State Police were called to Lou Dobbs' home last month to investigate a report of gunfire. Mr. Dobbs suggested that his family had been singled out because of his views on illegal immigration and border security.Mark Hill / AP file
/ Source: The New York Times

Lou Dobbs, the longtime CNN anchor whose anti-immigration views have made him a TV lightning rod, said Wednesday that he is leaving the cable news channel effective immediately.

Sitting before an image of an American flag on his television set, he said “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 as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day.”

“I’m considering a number of options and directions,” Mr. Dobbs added. A transcript of his remarks is available here.

Jonathan Klein, the president of CNN/U.S. said in a statement that “Lou has now decided to carry the banner of advocacy journalism elsewhere.”

“All of us will miss his appetite for big ideas, the megawatt smile and larger than life presence he brought to our newsroom,” Mr. Klein said.

Wednesday’s program will be Mr. Dobbs’ last on CNN. His contract was not set to expire until the end of 2011. He told viewers that CNN had agreed to release him from his contract early. No replacement has been named.

Mr. Dobbs informed his staff members of his intentions in a meeting Wednesday afternoon, catching some of the staffers off-guard.

Well known for his political positions, Mr. Dobbs is an outlier at CNN, which has sought to position itself as a middle ground of sorts in the fractious cable news arena. The CNN employees said Wednesday that they did not know if Mr. Dobbs was moving to another network.

Mr. Dobbs met with Roger Ailes, the chairman of the Fox News Channel, in September. At the time Mr. Dobbs was viewed as a potential hire for the Fox Business Network. But a Fox spokesperson said Wednesday, “We have not had any discussions with Lou Dobbs for Fox News or Fox Business.”

Mr. Dobbs has been with CNN since its founding, save for a two-year stint at a Web site called Space.com. He has evolved over the years from a straight-laced business anchor to an outspoken commentator who rails against illegal immigration and taxpayer bailouts, among other subjects.

Lately, though, he has saved most of his opinions for his afternoon radio show, which made its debut in March 2008. It is on the radio show that he talked repeatedly about the conspiracy theory claims that President Obama is not a United States citizen. When he mentioned the citizenship issue on CNN over the summer, his bosses were forced to call it a “dead issue.”

More recently, Mr. Dobbs’ views on immigration provoked a protest by Hispanic groups. Members of the groups complained that CNN was allowing Mr. Dobbs “to spread lies and misinformation about us each night.”

Wednesday evening, the advocacy group Presente.org, which had called on CNN to fire Mr. Dobbs, declared a “victory.”

“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,’” Roberto Lovato, a co-founder of Presente.org, said in a statement. “We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has this legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate.”

Last month the New Jersey State Police were called to Mr. Dobbs home to investigate a report of gunfire. Mr. Dobbs suggested that his family had been singled out because of his views on illegal immigration and border security.

This story, "Lou Dobbs to Quit CNN," originally appeared in The New York Times