Lately, immigrant-hating CNN maniac Lou Dobbs is getting a lot of publicity for giving airtime to “birthers” — people who are convinced by the aliens who control their minds via chips installed during anal probes that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, instead of Hawaii.
Some of you know that before I was a jewelry designer, I was a journalist for, among other places, CNN. But I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that my boss at CNN was Lou Dobbs, who was a serious financial journalist at the time. He was insane even then, mind you, but he was able to maintain the appearance of semi-normalcy on the air. Sometimes. While I was at CNN, I used to joke with MrB (who has long known Lou professionally) that I was going to write a roman a clef about my crap job and name the boss something totally unrecognizable like … oh, I don’t know … “Boo Lobbs.”
Even as Boo Lobbs became increasingly crazy over the past few years, I refrained from saying anything about him for several reasons:
- I’m a nice person.
- I don’t like to burn bridges.
- Boo’s wife is armed and dangerous.
- Mr. and Mrs. Lobbs came to my wedding in 2001 (groom’s side, obvs!).
But seriously, folks, Lou/Boo is out there on TV flaunting his nuttiness in front of the world, so why should I hold back any longer? My theory of how he came to be where he is today might even make you like him a little better — or at least pity him a bit. Because in my opinion, it’s his sadly unquenchable thirst for fame and fortune that drove him around the bend.
When I got to CNN in 1995, Lou was the anchor of a business-news program called Moneyline. (I didn’t work directly on the show, thank God. I worked at CNNfn, CNN’s now-defunct financial news network, which fed stories to Moneyline. Lou was the overlord of CNNfn.) By 1998, the dot-com bubble was underway and Lou saw a lot of people getting super-super-rich. Lou was a pretty big star in the business-news/CNN world, and he was rich but he wasn’t super-super-rich like a dot-com guy. He started to get more unruly at work. As I recall, he tried to find out if he could do a dot-com job AND be on Moneyline but, hello, “conflict of interest.” Finally, in 1999, he fought with CNN’s president on air and then quit days later to found something called Space.com. I had just left CNN to become managing editor of People.com. The big Lou blow-up happened on one of my first days at People, maybe even my first day — it was the day of the Columbine school shooting, which I remember well because People had failed to set up a computer for me so I spent the whole day wandering around, feeling very self-conscious about being unable to do any work. (Wikipedia has an accurate description of Lou’s on-air tantrum here. There’s more detail in a 1999 New York Times story here.)
Space.com was and is for space and astronomy news. I think we can all see the lack of economic potential in that. Trust me, hindsight is not needed. Oh, how we all laughed at the time. But Lou was blind to the foolishness of his effort till the dot-com bubble burst and he went crawling back to CNN in 2001. Well, according to some accounts, CNN founder and fellow lunatic Ted Turner begged him to come back but I personally think most of those accounts are in Lou’s imagination. I mean, come on. The man wasn’t any richer and was definitely less famous. Who’d have to beg him for anything? Anyway, after Lou went back to CNN to do general news as well as business news, there was a whole lotta nothing. As I recall, CNN had lost market share to the whack-jobs on Fox News and ratings-wise, Lou’s return from outer space wasn’t exactly the arrival of the Messiah.
Then, in 2006, Dobbs said a few nasty words about immigrants and, lo and behold, people were interested in him again. He got attention. He even got ratings. And ever since then, in my eyes, he’s been ratcheting up his hate talk in an endless quest for more attention and higher ratings. He’s a fame addict. And that’s what makes me a little sad for him, because I question whether he, deep down, believes his own words. He just knows he has to say them to get his fame fix. Now that it may be backfiring on him at last, I predict Lou’s next big television credit will be as a guest on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. But can you really cure someone of famewhoredom on TV? Doubt it.
UPDATED TO ADD: Thanks to gorgeous blogger Alicia for sharing this highlarious Boondocks clip of Ann Coulter doing it for the money.