John King to take over Dobbs's slot at CNN

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 12, 2009; 10:51 AM

CNN announced Thursday that John King, the Sunday morning host best known for his magic wall, is taking over the 7 p.m. slot left vacant by the abrupt resignation of Lou Dobbs.

The decision, described by network sources, amounts to a doubling down on straight news. King, a former Associated Press writer, is known for his reporting and neutral approach to politics, while Dobbs has grown increasingly opinionated in recent years, especially on such issues as his opposition to illegal immigration.

"The program will reflect what CNN is all about: the widest range of opinions from across the political spectrum," CNN President Jon Klein said in a statement. He said King will "share his passion and his insights about what is really going on in Washington and across the country."

King will continue as host of "State of the Union," a job he assumed in January, until early next year. He has visited 44 states for field reports for the program while also interviewing a traditional mix of newsmakers, including President Obama.

In a statement, King said he is "thrilled" by the opportunity, adding: "There is a lot of noise and conflict in our political discourse, which is fun to cover, but I'm convinced from my travels that people also thirst for more details as well as insight and context."

The move would give CNN, which is trailing Fox News and MSNBC in prime time, five hours of straight-news programs in the late afternoon and early evening, with King preceded by Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room" at 4 p.m. and followed by Campbell Brown at 8 p.m. Larry King's 9 p.m. program is more of a mix of celebrity news, culture and politics.

Dobbs announced Wednesday night that he was leaving the network he helped found in 1980 "to go beyond the role" of a television journalist in tackling the country's problems. He struck a populist tone, saying he would mount a campaign "to overcome the lack of true representation in Washington, D.C." Several liberal and Latino groups, outraged by his comments on immigration and other issues, had called for Dobbs's resignation. But Dobbs said his decision to leave grew out of extensive discussions about his role with Klein.

In announcing the move, Dobbs said that public debate was now defined by "partisanship and ideology" and that he would continue to speak out "in the most honest and direct language possible."

Liberal groups such as NDN and Media Matters had mounted a "Dump Dobbs" campaign, and Latino organizations challenged such Dobbs declarations as his 2006 statement that about one-third of the U.S. prison population "is estimated to be illegal aliens"-- which the anchor later acknowledged was way too high. But his position at CNN seemed secure.

The surprise announcement by Dobbs, whose fervent opposition to illegal immigration has come to define his career, stunned most staffers at the network he helped launch. He only hinted at disagreements with Klein, who he said had agreed to let him out of his multimillion-dollar contract.

In a statement, Klein praised the 64-year-old Dobbs for having "fearlessly and tirelessly pursued some of the most important and complex stories of our time, often well ahead of the pack." He added: "With characteristic forthrightness, Lou has now decided to carry the banner of advocacy journalism elsewhere."

Signaling his already apparent opposition to the Obama administration, Dobbs said that in the last six months "strong winds have buffeted this country." He vowed to "be a leader" in a "national conversation" about immigration, jobs, health care, climate change and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- as well as "our now-weakened capitalist economy."

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