Should CNN replace abruptly departing Lou Dobbs with Rick Sanchez?
As Latino groups began to step up their protests against CNN "advocacy anchor" Lou Dobbs, the one time business expert and last remaining anchor from the newschannel's earliest days abruptly announced he was leaving the channel, effective today.
In a long statement, Dobbs told his audience about the move during his 7 p.m. show, saying "some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond my 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 language possible."
This was not the first time Dobbs had left CNN; an anchor at the newschannel since its 1980 inception, he departed for two years in 1999 to join the Web site Space.com. (Citing unnamed sources, the Web site AllYourTV.com says Dobbs is considering a run for political office, perhaps president)
Dobbs has faced criticism from various groups over statements expressed on his CNN show and his radio show, from suggestions that the issue of President Obama's birth in the U.S. may be an open question to his refusal to correct mistaken reporting about illegal immigrants spreading leprosy in America.
Dobbs turned resistance to illegal immigration into a cornerstone of his programs, drawing heated criticism from Latino groups which accused him of demonizing Hispanics and spreading misinformation about the negative impacts of illegal immigrants.
(I experienced his wrath firsthand a few years ago, when I had to end a 2006 interview after he questioned my intelligence and abilities three different times; the situation was so combative, a CNN public relations staffer called me back after the interview ended to apologize)
A group called BastaDobbs.com -- which says it is a Latino-led grassroots coalition of several organizations urging CNN to fire Dobbs -- released a statement earlier today announcing a digital "sit-in" on the newschannel's iReport service. In this protest, members would send thousands of anti-Dobbs personal messages into CNN's Web site devoted to citizen journalism. The group had also protested during CNN's launch of its Latino in America series, arguing that the newschannel could not be fair to Latinos if it kept Dobbs on its payroll.
None of this was mentioned directly in statements released by Dobbs and CNN tonight. And despite the anchor's talk of moving on, no specific reason was given for the anchors abrupt departure -- announced without fanfare or a successor named (The New York Times quotes a spokesperson from Fox saying it has not had discussions with Dobbs for the Fox News Channel nor Fox Business Network).
Given the damage Dobbs punditry has done to its brand with Latinos, perhaps CNN will consider replacing him with Rick Sanchez, the former Miami anchor who has turned their 3 p.m. hour into a showcase for his Twitter-fed reporting and occasional opinionating, often on issues affecting Hispanics.
It would certainly be a delicious irony. And there's not nearly enough of that in the media game these days.