MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Growing anti-immigration sentiments has helped fuel a rating surge for CNN's Lou Dobbs, and that's come with criticism that he generates more heat than light. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, Dodd's newest employer appears to be among his critics.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Steve Friedman says there's a good reason he hired CNN's Lou Dobbs to be a weekly commentator on the CBS "Early Show."
Mr. STEVE FRIEDMAN (Vice President, CBS News): What he brings to us is edge. And part of what we do in the morning is we want to be provocative. We don't want to just tell you, you know, here's what's going on, take a look. And we'd like recognizable people from other areas.
FOLKENFLIK: Friedman's a vice president at CBS News. He sets his third-rated network morning show could use some of Dobbs' cable magic. Since 9/11, Dobbs has reinvented himself - casting aside his love of the financial market for an agenda with this at its core.
Mr. LOU DOBBS (Commentator, CBS's "Early Show"): My judgment is that the middle classes is getting screwed in this country.
FOLKENFLIK: Dobbs - who's still on CNN - tells NPR he's part of a vanguard of opinion anchors on cable.
Mr. DOBBS: Overman on the left, O'Reilly on the right, I am centrists. I'm an independent. I'm a populous and I don't look at our world through a ideaological person of any kind or filter.
FOLKENFLIK: Dobbs has enjoyed great leaps in his ratings. And while modest by network standards, they're warmly embraced at CNN. He's attracted to criticism of liberal groups like Media Matters and the Southern Property Law Center. But that combination of hot redirect and a hot ratings that prompted the job offer from CBS also drew the attention of the CBS News magazine "60 Minutes" earlier this week.
Ms. LESLEY STAHL (Reporter, CBS's "60 Minutes"): If you're looking for your traditional detached, impartial news shows…
FOLKENFLIK: During that story last Sunday, CBS's Lesley Stahl question whether Dobbs fits his facts to his opinions.
Ms. STAHL: The reporters don't take on issues. Reporter's reports issue and there's a big difference there. Do you think you're a journalist?
FOLKENFLIK: But Dobbs made Stahl an ironclad guarantee.
Mr. DOBBS: If we reported it, it's a fact.
Ms. STAHL: You can't tell me that. You're just a reporter.
Mr. DOBBS: Oh no, I just did.
Ms. STAHL: How can you guarantee that to me?
Mr. DOBBS: Because I'm the managing editor and that's the way we do business.
FOLKENFLIK: Stay with me, this is where it gets interesting. "60 Minutes" challenged a segment with CNN reporter Christine Romans on Dobbs' show back in 2005. Romans story linked a rise in communicable diseases to illegal immigration. Romans been cited her sources account of a rise from 900 cases of leprosy to 7,000 cases in past three years. Stahl challenged the report on "60 Minutes," saying those figures reflected several decades of cases not several years.
NPR checked that out. Federal Health Authority says there are total of about 6,500-recorded cases and new cases are declining. In addition, NPR found problems with CNN's source, the late Madeleine Cosman - whose research does not seem to support her allegations, there had been a recent growth in leprosy and it's linked to illegal immigration. But Dobbs defended the story to NPR.
Mr. DOBBS: We do not make up numbers. It is a fact.
FOLKENFLIK: And Romans tells NPR in retrospect, she should have provided more context, but she didn't shape her reporting to fit Dobbs' beliefs. Steve Friedman's responsible for early hours news programming at CBS, he thought of Dobbs' as soon as he saw ABC's rival "Good Morning America" add the conservative talk radio and cable host Glen Beck as a commentator. Friedman says he hopes Dobbs can help draw in viewers to the CBS early show including those who disagree with him.
Mr. FRIEDMAN: Lou is provocative and the "60 Minutes" report on Lou was also provocative. Look, morning television is a warehouse of ideas and rants, and we are looking for people's ideas and what's going on and let people talk and think bout them.
FOLKENFLIK: Friedman says Dobbs is a boy and he can take the heat even from his own team. A classic cable tactic is finding trenching on the broadcast networks.
David Folkenflik, NPR News.
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