Fox Business has canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight” one day after the host was named in a multibillion dollar defamation lawsuit against the network and its parent company.
Dobbs, 75, was among the most ardent pro-Trump voices on air. He held influence over Trump administration policy – particularly on trade and immigration – and relentlessly promoted the former president’s false claims of election fraud late last year. His nightly program, which a person close to Dobbs said aired its final episode Friday, was by far the highest-rated on Fox Business.
The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by a Fox spokesperson. Dobbs will be unlikely to return to air, although he still has a contract with Fox News Media, according to the Times.
Election technology company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit Thursday against Fox News, its parent company Fox Corp. and several on-air commentators, including Dobbs.
The network, however, said Dobbs’s cancellation had already been in the works.
“As we said in October, Fox News Media regularly considers programming changes and plans have been in place to launch new formats as appropriate post-election, including on Fox Business – this is part of those planned changes,” a Fox News Media spokesperson said in an email. “A new 5 p.m. program will be announced in the near future.”
Smartmatic’s nearly 300-page complaint alleges the network and hosts such as Dobbs “decimated” the company’s future earnings by falsely accusing it of helping to rig the presidential election in favor of Joe Biden.
It cited several examples of Dobbs promoting baseless claims of voter fraud, including a Nov. 12 episode in which Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed that Smartmatic was founded by Venezuelans close to former dictator Hugo Chávez “in order to fix elections.” Dobbs thanked Giuliani for being “on the case,” which the host said “has the feeling of a coverup in certain places.”
A Fox Business staffer said employees were surprised by the cancellation and presumed that it was connected to the lawsuit. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The network has not announced any changes to the shows of two other hosts named in the complaint:Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.
Dobbs started his career in local television, joined CNN at its inception in 1980 and became one of the network’s stars, best known for hosting “Moneyline with Lou Dobbs.” Amid reports of clashes with network executives, he left CNN in 1999 to start the astronomy news website Space.com.
He eventually returned to CNN but left again in 2009 as hard-line views on immigration became a bigger part of his personality. He was an early proponent of the “birther” conspiracy theory, which falsely held that Barack Obama had not been born in the United States and was thus ineligible for the presidency.
Dobbs landed on Fox Business in 2010, and over the years became must-watch TV for Donald Trump.
The two men spoke regularly, sometimes daily, The Post reported in 2019, and Dobbs’s views on immigration influenced the president’s policies. He was among a cohort of Fox personalities who became something of a shadow Cabinet for Trump. During an annual get-together with the Council of Economic Advisers in 2019, Trump placed a call to Dobbs to consult him, much to the surprise of the attendees.
Even before he began peddling election fraud claims, Dobbs was a reliable cheerleader for Trump’s reelection efforts. A friend of Dobbs told The Post in 2019 that the host was aware his program had turned into “Trump 2020 TV” but “doesn’t care. He’s at the end of his career, and he’s going to do what he wants to do.”
Trump responded to the news of the cancellation in a statement Friday evening: “Lou Dobbs is and was great. Nobody loves America more than Lou. He had a large and loyal following that will be watching closely for his next move, and that following includes me.”
Dobbs’s departure from the air comes as Fox is grappling with an identity crisis following Trump’s departure from office. Trump elevated the network during his presidency by citing the network’s hosts and programming frequently from his Twitter account, and in Cabinet meetings.
Fox News has already made several other significant programming changes since the election: It has removed Martha MacCallum from hosting her regular 7 p.m. news show and replaced her with a rotating cast of opinion hosts including Fox Business host Bartiromo, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, and former congressman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. The network also jettisoned two key members of its election night decision desk, politics editor Chris Stirewalt, and a senior vice president and Washington managing editor Bill Sammon.
Last month, Fox announced it had hired Larry Kudlow, former director of the National Economic Council, to host a daily show on Fox Business. Before joining the Trump administration, Kudlow hosted a show on Fox Business rival CNBC.
“Lou Dobbs Tonight” drew an average 305,000 daily viewers in 2020. Starting Monday, the network plans to start airing an interim show called “Fox Business Tonight,” with a rotating pair of hosts: Jackie DeAngelis and David Asman.
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The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.