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'Factor' Exclusive: Lou Dobbs Explains Why He Left CNN

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 16, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, here he is, the recently emancipated Lou Dobbs. OK, you still got your radio show, three hours a day.

LOU DOBBS, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: I sure do.

O'REILLY: And you're still popping off on there. But on CNN, you did quite well in the ratings when the immigration thing was in the forefront. And CNN actually moved you up from a — what they call the early fringe to 7 o'clock, because your ratings were strong.

DOBBS: Right. Right.

O'REILLY: Then your ratings leveled, as well as all the ratings for CNN, and began to go down. Just correct me if I'm wrong.

DOBBS: No, no, you're absolutely right.

O'REILLY: OK. So then they didn't like your anti-immigration stuff so much, did they?

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DOBBS: You know, I discern more of a difference between then, which was under the Bush administration whom I was criticizing, and now, when it is the Obama administration and an entirely different tone was taken, not so much in the case of CNN management, certainly, because there's no — my contract was very explicit. I had absolute editorial control. What I reported is what I chose to report...

O'REILLY: So they never said to you in the hallway, "You know, we don't like this," or, "This doesn't make you or the network look good." You never got that kind of feedback?

DOBBS: Never. The only issue that came up in the last 90 days of my employment there was Jon Klein and I had talked about the issue of opinion itself and advocacy journalism, and he wanted to take the network in a different direction, and I quite understood that and tried to accommodate him though.

O'REILLY: But it doesn't make any sense, so let's just go back. Under the Bush administration, and President Bush didn't do a lot to stem illegal immigration until his last two years…

DOBBS: Yes, he was...

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: So you hammered him.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: You hammered him. But at the same time, La Raza and other groups labeled you an anti-immigrant guy, not an anti-illegal immigrant guy, an anti-immigrant guy.

DOBBS: And so did, by the way, The New York Times...

O'REILLY: Right.

DOBBS: ...which conflated illegal immigration with immigrant...

O'REILLY: With legal immigration.

DOBBS: Right. Right.

O'REILLY: So you were demonized by the left...

DOBBS: Right.

O'REILLY: ...as a bad guy. You don't think CNN bought into that at all?

DOBBS: I don't. I really don't. But that's just purely subjective on my part. CNN's management never tried — and, by the way, in 27 years — and this goes back to when Ted was running the operation...

O'REILLY: Ted Turner.

DOBBS: ...they never tried to do...

O'REILLY: OK, and I believe you, because as I said, they moved you up in the time slot when your numbers were good.

DOBBS: Sure.

O'REILLY: But then the numbers leveled and went down, and then a new president came in, and you were saying, as soon as the new president came in, and you went after him, not only on illegal immigration, but economic issues...

DOBBS: Right, other issues, right.

O'REILLY: ...they didn't like you anymore.

DOBBS: Well, I — I don't know whether that was the distinction that triggered any sort of response or difference in perspective on the part of CNN's management, but it is the only difference between the way I'm — I was conducting myself under this administration and the previous administration.

O'REILLY: But what did you hear? I mean, what — did you hear that they were uncomfortable with you?

DOBBS: No, what I heard very directly was that they had decided to take CNN in a direction in which advocacy journalism would not — wouldn't be a part of it.

O'REILLY: OK, so they just wanted — they just want an objective presentation in primetime.

DOBBS: Correct. Correct.

O'REILLY: But it doesn't make any sense, because their numbers — and with all due respect, because we don't have anything against CNN. NBC News, we don't like. But CNN, I don't have anything against you guys, Campbell Brown, Larry King...

DOBBS: By the way, it's "those guys" now.

O'REILLY: OK. Right. Those guys, I'm sorry. But every show that — that doesn't have an opinion is dying. It's dying. Campbell Brown is getting murdered. Larry King has declined like 80 percent. Anderson Cooper is getting hammered. So they want more of the same? They want more of that? Does that make sense to you, as an economic guy?

DOBBS: Well, you know, I'm just talent. They're — they're...

O'REILLY: No, you're an economic guy. You can read. You can read the numbers. They're in dire trouble.

DOBBS: Their — their ratings are — are objectively, without question, as you suggest, lower than they should be, than they'd been. By the way, I was partly to blame for that, because my broadcast was in that line-up. They're making choices now trying, obviously, to change that direction.

O'REILLY: But what? By knocking out all opinion? Opinion is what works. That's what works.

DOBBS: You know, I — you're going to have to talk to them on that one, Bill.

O'REILLY: OK. So you were in a position where you weren't getting criticized directly, you say. OK...

DOBBS: Correct.

O'REILLY: ...but the perception was things weren't — the perception was you were just too opinionated and they didn't want that.

DOBBS: That was — well, obviously, that's what they didn't want, because the direction was to move toward purely a neutral presentation.

O'REILLY: OK. Now, the birther thing, I think that hurts you. You gave them voice, and, you know, it's OK to give them voice, but they appeared a lot on your program.

DOBBS: Well, actually, no. This is about a two-week period. And by the way, my big offense here, and by the way, we have a (INAUDIBLE) — CNN has a broadcast called "Reliable Sources" with Howie Kurtz of The Washington Post. They ran some excerpts of what I had said about birthers. Here's what I said about birthers, Bill. I said, "Birthers have a question about a birth certificate. I personally believe that Barack Obama is a citizen of the United States. What I don't understand is that with Army officers refusing to serve in Afghanistan, with lawsuits going forward, why not just produce the doggone birth certificate and be done with it?" That was my offense, to ask the question. And my question to you is, what kind of country is it when someone in the media asks a question and that becomes a controversy?

O'REILLY: Well, if you're going to ask a question that Barack Obama doesn't want to answer, you're going to get hammered by the Obama people, and that's what happened, and it happened to the extent that you say you were shot at out in New Jersey where you live, right?

DOBBS: Well, it followed that shot at our house on a mid-morning on a...

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: Do you — do you really believe that, that somebody shot at your house?

DOBBS: No, I know it.

O'REILLY: You know it?

DOBBS: It's a demonstrable fact. And that followed months and months of threats on the issue of illegal immigration over our phone...

O'REILLY: I get them, too. I know what you're going through.

DOBBS: And it became — it became a matter of some intensity in the last two or three months preceding that shot. And there are those who — you know, what's interesting, on the far left, there are people saying, you know, that just didn't happen. He made that up.

O'REILLY: Yes, they are.

DOBBS: Well, here's the conclusive evidence to my — to my thinking and to my wife's, and that is the threats stopped on that very day that that shot was fired. We haven't received a threat since then.

O'REILLY: Because the cops came out, and everybody — I'm going to carry Lou over for a couple of minutes here.

DOBBS: Sure.

O'REILLY: Now, there's been speculation you might run for the Senate in New Jersey. Is that on your mind?

DOBBS: A lot of things are on my mind. I'm not going to be coy about this.

O'REILLY: But I — yes, I mean, you would be a legitimate contender for the Senate.

DOBBS: I'm thinking — my wife and I are thinking about a lot of opportunities. I'm very blessed to have a lot of opportunities. I'm going to remain — I can guarantee you 100 percent — I'm going to remain in the public arena. These issues that matter so much to me, many of the same that matter to you, are not changing. What is immutable here is, I'm going to remain in the public arena.

O'REILLY: All right. So you'll be in the radio, you might come back to TV if the right circumstance presented itself, and you might run for office. Final question. Barack Obama, is he the devil?

DOBBS: He's not the devil, but he is certainly a man who is right now not making it easy to understand why he's making the public policy choices that he is. There has to be a better understanding from — and it can only result from his expression to the American people as to what is taking so long to come to a decision in Afghanistan, why it is so necessary to turn over a sixth of the economy to the United States government, which is not showered itself...

O'REILLY: Health care, right.

DOBBS: ...with glory on any other sector...

O'REILLY: So you don't think he's a devil, but you think he's mismanaging the country at this point?

DOBBS: I think that — absolutely.

O'REILLY: All right. I'm sorry to put words in your mouth, but we've got — we've got to go.

DOBBS: No, I decided those were a pretty good choice.

O'REILLY: I'd like you to come back on like a semi-regular basis. Would you be willing to do that?

DOBBS: It'd be my honor.

O'REILLY: OK. All right, Lou Dobbs, everybody. And we appreciate it. Good luck, Lou. Thanks for coming in.

DOBBS: Thanks, Bill.

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