Is This the End for Lou Dobbs?
By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
It took him a long time, but it looks like CNN President Jon Klein is finally getting around to doing what he should have done a long time ago. In order to maintain the professed trademark of his network for objectivity in broadcasting, he may have to fire Lou Dobbs.
Of course, cautious as he is, Klein won’t fire the anti-immigration crusader directly, or even alone. He will throw Dobbs overboard as part of a vendetta against radio talk show hosts in general.
As first reported on the Website TVNewser.com, in a conference call on Aug. 11, Klein told his producers they should no longer book radio talk show hosts on CNN shows: not on “The Situation Room,” nor Larry King, Anderson Cooper, or Campbell Brown. From now on, said his edict, no radio talkers will appear on CNN. Period.
Why? Because, argued Klein, radio talk show hosts are incapable of understanding or commenting on the important issues of the day. “Complex issues require world-class reporting,” sniffed Klein. Not only that, TVNewser.com quotes Klein as complaining that radio hosts too often do nothing more than “contribute to the noise,” and their comments are “all too predictable.”
Klein’s dead wrong, of course. Yes, we Americans do confront complex issues today, but radio talk show hosts like me, whether liberal or conservative, are more than capable of dealing with them. After all, that’s what we do for a living. We research the issues. We explain them to listeners. We take listener calls about them. We talk about them, on average, three hours a day — without a teleprompter. We understand the issues far better, in fact, than any blow-dried anchor that does little more than read a script, written by somebody else, for one hour at the most.
Now, I must admit, I was both puzzled and disappointed to learn of Klein’s manifesto. Puzzled because radio talk show hosts have long played an important role at the network. “Crossfire” actually began with two talk radio hosts, Pat Buchanan and Tom Braden. Other CNN personalities of yesterday or today — Larry King, Mary Matalin, Bill Bennett, Roland Martin, Glenn Beck, and yours truly — hosted, or continue to host, their own radio shows.
I’m disappointed by Klein’s decision because I enjoyed six good years at CNN — as co-host of “Crossfire” and “The Spin Room.” Since leaving the network (not voluntarily), I have jumped at the chance to appear occasionally as an unpaid guest on “The Situation Room,” “Reliable Sources,” or other CNN programs. I’m a big CNN fan, and I’ll miss being part of it.
But my grief is more than outweighed by one giant consolation: At least, this will mean the end of that pompous, arrogant, and obnoxious Lou Dobbs. After all, Lou Dobbs is also a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. So Klein’s edict — “No Radio Talk Show Hosts on CNN” — must mean the end of Lou Dobbs.
And it’s about time. Dobbs contradicts everything CNN supposedly stands for. He doesn’t just report, he pontificates. He doesn’t just deliver the news he pollutes it with his own opinions. He doesn’t even pretend to be in the middle of the road, he exults in being on the extreme right.
Actually, Klein missed two excellent opportunities to fire Dobbs. First, when Dobbs assumed the role of chief executioner for undocumented workers. No fine points about breaking up families or crippling certain American industries for Dobbs. If they’re here illegally, they should be sent back across the border, all 12 million of them. It’s the kind of daily rant you expect from right-wing FOX News, but not from “news leader” CNN.
Klein should also have dumped Dobbs for fanning the flames of the “birther” issue. Long after every serious news operation had dismissed questions about the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate as totally whacko, Dobbs kept beating the birther drum on CNN. But, instead of admonishing him to stick to “world-class reporting,” Klein himself said Dobbs was raising a legitimate issue.
Still, it’s better late than never. We now know Lou Dobbs will be fired because we know Jon Klein is a man of his word. After all, he’s the president of CNN, “the most trusted name in news.” Surely, Klein would never ban all radio talk show hosts from CNN and leave talk show host Lou Dobbs on the air. Would he?