Lou Dobbs is so obsessed with space travel that he left TV news altogether in the 1990s to run a website on the subject. Surely in all his study of the subject, he's learned something about sunspots, which erupt periodically with bursts of hot gas, then fadeaway. Their political equivalent in America is U.S. immigration policy, which every few years riles up the public -- or at least a vocal segment of it -- then slips back into the background. Even if Dobbs doesn't see the metaphor, his bosses at CNN surely do: On Thursday, they canceled his nightly immigration rant on HLN (or Headline News, as we geezers still call it) and gave the time slot to Joy Behar, one of the various babblers from ABC's airheads-on-parade The View. Behar's 9 p.m. show will start in September.
Just a couple of years ago, Dobbs made himself into the hottest thing in the CNN constellation by launching a one-man jihad against immigration. But over the past year, his 7p.m. CNN show has lost nearly 30 percent of its viewers, and the 9 p.m. rerun on HLN, 8 percent. The HLN decline, though smaller, was evidently more alarming to CNN bosses because the network's ratings are otherwise way up. In fact, HLN actually beats CNN in prime time almost half the time among the 25-to-54 age demographic that cable news show target. If Behar manages to bringalong a substantial chunk of her daytime audience, HLN could soon become the straw that stirs the CNN corporate milkshake.
Meanwhile, Dobbs needs to come up with something else to drive his 7 p.m. show, or he's liable to lose that spot, too. Elisabeth Hasselback, I'll bet, is waiting by the phone.