CNN-mity: Tensions With Dobbs Were Evident Many Years Ago
That said, this is a good time to recall that Dobbs and his employer were at very visible loggerheads a decade ago. In fact, yesterday's move by Dobbs is not his first resignation from the network. Here is Brent Baker's June 9, 1999 CyberAlert item describing what happened:
Lou Dobbs gone from CNN. Forced out by CNN President Rick Kaplan, or just frustrated by him? In a surprise announcement at the end of Tuesday’s The World Today, anchor Jim Moret informed viewers:
"And finally tonight, farewell to a colleague. Lou Dobbs, President of CNNfn and anchor of Moneyline, is resigning to launch a new Internet venture. Dobbs said he is ‘grateful to Ted Turner and CNN News Group Chairman Tom Johnson for the opportunity to have helped build CNN and cnn.com into a first-class television news and interactive institution.’ Lou Dobbs had been with CNN since its inception 19 years ago. He will start up space.com, a Web site for news, entertainment and educational content about space."
No mention of Kaplan and an on-air dispute the two had a couple of weeks ago about whether to carry live a Clinton speech may explain why. As Clay Waters of Bridge News first informed me, the May 25 Page Six column in the New York Post revealed:
(Begin Post excerpt; paragraph breaks added by me)
Dobbs' on-air blast at CNN chief
The rivalry between CNN President Rick Kaplan and CNN.fn boss and Moneyline host Lou Dobbs reached critical mass last week, when Dobbs challenged Kaplan's news savvy on the air during his top-rated business show.
The brouhaha erupted last Thursday, when a Dobbs producer was ordered by Kaplan to cut away from Moneyline for live coverage of President Clinton's address at Columbine HS in Littleton, Co. Dobbs, who didn't consider the staged event breaking news, "was absolutely livid," says an insider. So livid, in fact, he ordered his producer to cut back to Moneyline.
Kaplan -- a Clinton golf buddy -- immediately countered with an order to go back to Colorado. The tug-of-war ended with a visibly peeved Dobbs telling his audience they were returning to Columbine because "CNN President Rick Kaplan wants us to." Dobbs' comments were edited out of CNN's transcript of the show.
"It was a real blowout," a source told PAGE SIX. "There was mayhem in the studio with all the back and forth."
The struggle continued Friday, when the still-steamed Kaplan fired off a memo stating that, between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. -- the Moneyline time slot -- Atlanta headquarters will have "the final call." "Kaplan made it clear that he's still calling the shots," said our source. Dobbs, who is not a fan of the Clinton administration, is often at odds with Kaplan's fawning, kid-gloved treatment of the White House.
Indeed, Dobbs has been more interested in pursuing Chinese espionage than the other networks and CNN shows. When the story first broke in March he broadcast his show live from Los Alamos and several times since has run multiple stories on nights when The World Today ran just one story or none at all.
In response to personal lobbying by Ted Turner, Dobbs returned to CNN in 2001, after a person who has since become an outspoken Obama critic reacted to one of Turner's trademark insults directed at those who don't see the world as he does. Baker's March 15, 2001 CyberAlert had the details:
Ted Turner’s "Jesus freaks" insult was the last straw for Stuart Varney, a 20-year plus CNN veteran who had been co-anchor of the Moneyline News Hour. AP and Reuters dispatches late Wednesday confirmed New York Daily News and New York Post stories that he resigned after hearing last week of Turner’s latest outburst.
The March 14 New York Daily News reported: "Last Thursday, after hearing that Turner called CNN employees who observed Ash Wednesday ‘Jesus freaks,’ Varney resigned in a huff, sources said, although his resignation was kept quiet." The New York Post added: "Insiders say Varney believes the cable network has strayed from its middle-of-the road political coverage -- and has slanted heavily towards Democratic party positions."
Turner’s remark, at the February 28 retirement party for Bernard Shaw at CNN’s Washington bureau, first came to light via FNC’s Brit Hume on March 6 -- as detailed in the March 7 CyberAlert. The March 8 New York Post plastered it on the front page under the headline: "Ted Makes an Ash of Himself." Post reporter Andy Geller recounted the comments from the Vice Chairman of AOL Time Warner:
"About 300 people were present and three or four staffers had ashes on their foreheads to mark Ash Wednesday.
"Sources said Turner stared at one of the staffers and said, ‘I was looking at this woman and I was trying to figure out what was on her forehead. At first I thought you were in the earthquake’ in Seattle that day. As puzzled staffers furrowed their brows, the cable tycoon unleashed this zinger: ‘I realized you're just Jesus freaks. Shouldn't you guys be working for Fox?’
"Turner laughed, and there were a few titters in the audience, but most of the 300 people greeted the remarks with stony silence."
A month later, Dobbs was back, as noted in this short April 23, 2001 Business Week blurb:
Lou Dobbs Is Back. Is CNNfn?
CNN is betting that Lou Dobbs will restore lost luster to its financial programming. The Atlanta-based cable news channel, a unit of recently merged AOL Time Warner, rehired Dobbs on Apr. 9 as anchor and managing editor of Moneyline News Hour. Dobbs quit two years ago after losing a power struggle with Richard Kaplan, then head of CNN's domestic operations. Moneyline's ratings tanked after Dobbs resigned, and CNN's financial channel, CNNfn, fell further behind leader CNBC.
Kaplan's departure from CNN in August helped set the stage for Dobbs's return from Space.com, a news and entertainment Web site about outer space. Dobbs's first priority at CNN: "Reestablishing myself with my old audience and building a new one."
CNNfn was put out of its misery in 2004.
In historical context, that Lou Dobb's and the network's respective wells of patience may have run out would not surprise anyone.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.