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Lou Dobbs A "Publicity Nightmare" For CNN: AP

First Posted: 09/02/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:45 PM ET

Dobbs

AP -- He's become a publicity nightmare for CNN, embarrassed his boss and hosted a show that seemed to contradict the network's "no bias" brand. And on top of all that, his ratings are slipping.

How does Lou Dobbs keep his job?

It's not a simple answer. CNN insists it is standing behind Dobbs, despite calls for his head from critics of his reporting on "birthers" - those who believe President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States despite convincing evidence to the contrary. The "birthers" believe Obama was born in Kenya, and thus not eligible to be president.

Dobbs' work has been so unpopular that even Ann Coulter has criticized him.

Dobbs has acknowledged that he believes Obama was born in Hawaii. But he gives airtime to disbelievers, and has said the president should try to put questions fully to rest by releasing a long version of his birth certificate. He's twice done stories on his show after the public leak of a memo from CNN U.S. President Jon Klein saying that "it seems this story is dead."

Klein said those stories were OK because they were about the controversy and weren't actually questioning the facts. But critics suggest Klein is parsing words, that even raising the issue lends it credence.

Joked The Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes: it "explains their upcoming documentary: `The World: Flat. We Report - You Decide."'

Dobbs hasn't made it any easier by using his radio show to fight back at critics, who he called "limp-minded, lily-livered lefty lemmings." He considered going on CNN tormentor Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show to thank him (O'Reilly says the birthers are wrong, but he defended Dobbs' right to talk about it).

"He's embarrassed himself and he's embarrassed CNN," said Brooks Jackson, a former CNN correspondent. "And that's not a good thing for any network that wants to be seen as a reputable, nonpartisan news organization."

So who needs the headache?

Klein said Dobbs does a smart newscast that explores issues that get little in-depth attention elsewhere, such as trade with China, health care funding and the stimulus plan. He suggested Dobbs' CNN work is unfairly lumped in with his unrelated radio show, and that he's judged on the show he did a couple of years ago, when Dobbs became a political target for his campaigning against illegal immigration.

The two men sat down after last year's election to make changes, aware that the anti-immigrant Dobbs' image ran counter to the brand CNN was trying to create. CNN calls itself the network of unbiased reporting compared to conservative commentators on Fox and liberal ones at MSNBC.

Since then, Dobbs has been doing a relatively straight newscast, Klein said.

"He brings more than three decades of experience reporting and broadcasting the news," Klein said, "and that's very valuable to a news network."

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Filed by Rachel Weiner  |