CNN's Lou Dobbs, a lightning rod for criticism following his transition from a business journalist to an opinionated anchor on such issues as illegal immigration, told viewers on Wednesday that he was quitting his nightly show to pursue new opportunities.
"This will be my last broadcast," Dobbs said after giving the day's headlines. Dobbs, who hosts a daily radio show unrelated to CNN, said the network had allowed him to be released early from his contract.
Dobbs was a CNN original, signing on when the cable network started in 1980. For much of that time, he hosted a nightly business broadcast that became one of the most influential shows in the corporate world, and CNN's most profitable show for advertising revenue.
But Dobbs said his world view changed after the 2001 terrorist attacks and corporate corruption scandals, and he began to more freely express his opinions. He was particularly persistent in bringing the immigration issue to the fore, winning him both higher ratings and enemies. Latino groups had an active petition drive seeking his removal.
His presence became awkward for CNN, particularly as it began emphasizing reporting and non-opinion shows. He angered management this summer by pressing questions about President Barack Obama's birth site after CNN reporters determined there was no issue.
Dobbs said the decision came after many months of discussion with CNN U.S. President Jon Klein. Dobbs said he wanted to concentrate on his role as a commentator and on advocacy journalism.
Klein hailed Dobbs' "appetite for big ideas, the megawatt smile and larger than life presence he brought to our newsroom."
"With characteristic forthrightness, Lou has now decided to carry the banner of advocacy journalism elsewhere," Klein said. "We respect his decision."
Dobbs said he was proud of his role in helping to build the first cable news network. He said 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."
Seated at an anchor desk in front of a screen with a fluttering American flag, Dobbs mentioned his interest in issues such as health care, jobs, immigration, climate change and the wars.
"Unfortunately, these issues are now defined in the public arena by partisanship and ideology rather than rigorous empirical thought and forthright analysis and discussion," he said. "I will be working diligently to change that as best I can."