Fox Business has abruptly canceled Lou Dobbs Tonight, its top-rated show and a prominent platform for one of the staunchest pro-Trump voices on the cable news.
The cancellation reported by the LA Times on Friday comes just a day after voting software company Smartmatic filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox Corporation, Fox News, and three Fox anchors – including Lou Dobbs – for making false claims that their technology is being used to inspect became electoral fraud.
It's not exactly clear why the Dobbs show was canceled. Some media analysts, including CNN's Brian Stelter, say Dobbs caused problems for Fox Business even before his lawsuit, despite his ratings, and reported that his insistence on repeating Trump's false claims about election fraud deterred large advertisers. Fox had previously announced that he would consider changes to his lineups after the presidential election and said on Friday that the cancellation was part of his planned changes.
"As we said in October, Fox News Media is regularly considering programming changes, and plans have been made to introduce new formats as appropriate after the elections, including for Fox Business – this is part of those planned changes," a Fox News Media spokesperson said in an opinion. “A new 5 pm. The program will be announced in the near future. "
Given these plans for new shows and the problems facing advertisers, the emergence of the defamation lawsuit may have accelerated the deliberations already underway.
Dobbs still has a deal with Fox News Media, but the company has no plans to get him back on the air, according to the New York Times. It is unclear what action, if any, Fox could take in relation to its other two star anchors named in the Smartmatic lawsuit, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro.
Dobbs, a right-wing populist first known on CNN, was an early supporter of the conspiracy theory of racial birthright – which falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States – and former President Donald Trump helped popularize it . Dobbs later used his Fox Business Show to defend the Trump administration and influence its trade and immigration policies. He also stepped up Trump's disinformation campaign to cast doubt on the 2020 election results.
This support for Trump prompted the former president to issue a statement on Dobbs on Friday: “Lou Dobbs is and was great. Nobody loves America more than Lou. He had a large and loyal following who will pay close attention to his next move, and that following includes me. "
But this support has also put Dobbs and his employer in legal danger. Smartmatic's lawsuit alleges that Dobbs, as one of Fox Business’s leading hosts, ruined the company's future profits by accusing it of rigging the election. For example, in one episode in November, Dobbs reacted positively to Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani, who said during an interview that Smarmatic was founded by Venezuelans near the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "to fix elections".
CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter described the cancellation of a show as popular as Dobbs' as "extremely rare."
"Next thing is when Fox News fired Bill O'Reilly when his secret story of sexual harassment settlements was revealed," Stelter said Friday. “With Dobbs there is no sign of it. Instead, it is about Dobbs' extreme content and its weakness with advertisers. Of course, he was a sycophant for President Trump, one of Trump's biggest boosters on TV, and now there's less use for it. "
Fox News is rebuilding after Trump
As reported by Vox's Aaron Rupar, Fox News Media's channels – especially the main Fox News channel – are struggling to focus on a post-Trump reality. While Fox News Channel was consistently the top news network during the Trump administration, it is no longer the case. As Stelter recently wrote for CNN's Reliable Sources:
The Nielsen numbers for the month of January were released on Tuesday, and Fox finished third in the Three Horse Cable News Race for the first time since 2001. In addition, CNN was the # 1 channel for all cables.
It remains to be seen whether Fox News can bounce back from these numbers. It has made changes to do just that, however – in January, Fox News announced a major shift in daytime and prime-time lineups, with anchors like Martha MacCallum, Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer losing their slots and being pushed to new shows earlier the day. Network insiders described the measures as downgrades and as a sign that the network had to contend with a major drop in ratings after the elections.
As a specialization broadcaster, Fox Business never received the same audience as Fox News Channel. In late 2020, the company touted its top shows with an audience of over 300.00 (compared to Fox News' average of 1.53 million viewers in the post-election period). But like the main Fox news channel, Fox Business was known for beating its rivals like CNBC – and there's a focus on bringing new shows onto the network that can. For example, Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic advisor, will soon have his own Fox Business Show.
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