Lou Dobbs, the television pundit and syndicated radio host whose controversial positions and persistent questions about President Barack Obama's birthplace have made him an emblem of America's poisoned public discourse in the eyes of many, announced on his CNN program on Wednesday that he would immediately step down from the network where he was a fixture for nearly 30 years. A decorated journalist and an eager brawler, Dobbs has drawn admiration from some for his virulent opposition to illegal immigration. In recent months he used his megaphone to become a mouthpiece for the cult of "birthers" who insist that Obama is not a U.S. citizen, even in light of evidence presented by the government of Obama's home state and by the president of Dobbs' network. The friction caused by his refusal to let the issue drop led some to suggest, even prior to his sudden resignation, that Dobbs' next destination might be Fox News a network less likely to shy away from divisive politics.
Born Sept. 24, 1945, in Childress, Texas. Married, with four children, and lives in New Jersey. Has one child from his first marriage.
Graduated from Harvard University in 1967 with a degree in economics.
Worked as a banker and for federal anti-poverty programs after graduation.
Started his reporting career as a police and fire reporter for a TV station in Yuma, Ariz., in the early 1970s, then worked as an anchor in Phoenix and Seattle.
Was a founding member of CNN in 1980, anchoring the network's Moneyline program and working as its chief economic correspondent. At the time, Dobbs was the network's youngest anchor.
Won a Peabody Award in 1987 for his coverage of the stock-market crash.
Headed CNN's financial network spinoff, CNNfn, when it launched in 1995.
Left CNNfn in 1999 to found a Web venture, Space.com, after a prolonged feud with former CNN president Rick Kaplan, which was sparked by the network's coverage of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
Returned to CNN in 2001 to host Moneyline, the title of which was eventually changed to Lou Dobbs Tonight. CNN founder Ted Turner had reportedly urged Dobbs to return.
Won an Emmy Award in 2004 for a segment called "Exporting America," which documented the migration of U.S. jobs overseas.
In addition to Lou Dobbs Tonight, he hosts a three-hour, nationally syndicated radio show.
Has written four books. The most recent, Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit, was released in 2007.
Recently stated that his home had been shot at and that he had received threatening phone calls. Dobbs said he believed his contentious views made him a target.
"Over the past six months, it's become increasingly clear that strong winds
of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us. And 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 a better
understanding of the great issues of our day, and to continue to do so, in
the most honest and direct way possible."
Announcing his departure on Lou Dobbs Tonight, Nov. 11, 2009
"It's become part of a way of life the anger, the hate, the
vitriol ... They've now fired a shot at my house while my wife was standing
next to the car. It's become something else."
Saying his critics have launched an "unrelenting" harassment campaign against him because of his controversial views (New York Daily News, Nov. 1, 2009)
"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."
Speaking on his television show, July 29, 2009
"They are a joke."
On the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism. The remark led MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann to dub Dobbs the "worst person in the world" in February 2008 (Media Matters, Feb. 8, 2008)
"The enemies in this war are radical Islamists who argue all non-believers
in their faith must be killed. They are called Islamists. That's why we are
abandoning the phrase, War Against Terror. Let us be clear. This is not a
war against Muslims or Islam. It is a war against Islamists and all who
support them. If ever there were a time for clarity, it is now."
On Lou Dobbs Moneyline, June 6, 2002
"It's racist. Just call it for what it is."
Phil Griffin, MSNBC president, on commentators like Dobbs who have questioned Obama's U.S. citizenship (New York Times, July 24, 2009)
"It seems this story is dead because anyone who still is not convinced doesn't really have a legitimate beef."
Jon Klein, CNN president, in a memo to staff, saying the network would cease its coverage of Obama's birth certificate (TVNewser, July 24, 2009)
"[He's] just a very difficult person to deal with. Lou doesn't think he's opinionated. He just thinks he's stating the truth."
Onetime CNN president Rick Kaplan, on his feud with Dobbs (New Yorker, Dec. 4, 2006)
"There are a lot of dumb bastards in the world. Lou is one of the smart ones. There's a big difference working for someone who is smart and engaged."
CNN correspondent Bill Tucker, on Dobbs (New Yorker, Dec. 4, 2006)