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Surprise! Lauer Asks If Dobbs Was 'Too Conservative' For CNN?

NBC's Matt Lauer, on Tuesday's Today show, actually asked Lou Dobbs, formerly of CNN, if he and the network parted ways because he was "too conservative" and if CNN was okay with Dobbs' push for immigration reform when he was attacking George W. Bush but wasn't happy when Dobbs started slamming the Obama administration on the issue, as he queried the former CNN host, "You got much less kickback from CNN than when you started to speak out about the policies of Barack Obama. So, was this an issue that CNN wants to appear neutral but maintain a more liberal stance?"

For his part Dobbs claimed the home of the very liberal Rick Sanchez "made it very clear, they wanted the network to go middle of the road and to be very neutral."

The following is the full transcript of the entire segment as it was aired on the November 17, Today show:

MATT LAUER: Lou Dobbs is a former anchor at CNN who abruptly resigned last week from his job as host of "Lou Dobbs Tonight." He's with us exclusively this morning. Lou, good to see you.

LOU DOBBS: Great to be with you, Matt.

LAUER: I want to talk about Sarah Palin.

DOBBS: Alright.

LAUER: I'd love to get your take on her in a second. But I can't introduce you as the guy who resigned abruptly from CNN last week without starting by saying what happened?

DOBBS: Well CNN decided to go one way and ultimately it became clear to both CNN management and myself that we were going to go separate directions, and the primary issue was over the way in which I wanted to anchor a broadcast and host a broadcast and the way in which they wanted to go.

LAUER: The way it's been reported is that, that CNN got tired of your opinions. And I'm curious, do you think CNN got tired of opinions in general? Did, in other words, did they want to stay in the middle of the road, or did they get tired of your specific opinions, too conservative?

DOBBS: Well, well since I take it a little personally, perhaps it was just mine, but they made it very clear, they wanted the network to go middle of the road and to be very neutral. And Matt, you and I have known each other for a long time. You know I'm not a very neutral fellow.

LAUER: No, that's true. So when you continued to talk about things like illegal immigration and the Birthers movement, did they come down, did they sit down with you in a meeting - I'm talking about the brass at CNN - did they threaten to take you off the air if you didn't toe the line?

DOBBS: Never. Never. In my almost, well just about 27 years with CNN, and I'm very fortunate to have been one of the folks who helped build the place, no one ever tried to interfere with my editorial judgment, for which I'm very grateful. But when you start moving to the issue of whether or not I was gonna be able to do analysis, to be able to express my opinion, which is something that, frankly, my audience has not only given me permission to do but demand-

LAUER: But they want you, seem to want you to do it.

DOBBS: Exactly.

LAUER: And, and you went on in an interview last night and you seemed to lead people to believe that when you were speaking out against President Bush and his immigration policies, you got much less kickback from CNN than when you started to speak out about the policies of Barack Obama. So, was this an issue that CNN wants to appear neutral but maintain a more liberal stance?

DOBBS: You know, I think that's a question left to others better.

LAUER: What do you think, though?

DOBBS: Well, my personal view is that, and all I can go by is what they said. They said the issue is one of advocacy, one of neutrality, that they will prefer, but we had this conversation now, and as it were, and not back then.

LAUER: You've had some critics over the last year or two...

DOBBS: No! Say it ain't so.

LAUER: I'll tell you it is true. Now some of them are cheering your exit as a victory.

DOBBS: Right.

LAUER: Roberto Lovato of Presente.org, it's a Hispanic group, said quote, "We're thrilled that Dobbs no longer has the legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate." What's your reaction to that?

DOBBS: Well first, if by saying that I believe illegal immigrants are the only rational actors in this nation's illegal immigration crisis, then you know, forgive me. If saying that people should be absolutely honoring our borders and our ports as a sovereign nation, then forgive me. If saying that we should have a rational, effective and humane immigration policy in this country, but as a condition precedent, we have to secure our borders, then forgive me. I've said all along Matt, that there is one logical syllogism that, that I can't overcome. And if anybody can defeat that logic of the syllogism, then I'll sign up for whatever they want. I've said you cannot, you cannot substantively reform immigration law unless we can control immigration, and we can't control immigration if we don't control our own borders and ports. Now, if somebody can defeat the logic of that, I'll sign up for whatever they've got in mind.

LAUER: While we've got a sampling of your views on things. Let me ask you for your view-

DOBBS: Sure.

LAUER: -on Sarah Palin. She's everywhere right now. She's on her book tour. Is she staking out her claim, an early claim for the Republican nomination for 2012?

DOBBS: Well she's certainly the front-runner in terms of her popularity in the Republican Party, and therefore, de facto, it seems to me Matt, she is staking out her territory.

LAUER: Is, is she someone that if, if the election were held today, Lou, would you consider voting for her?

DOBBS: Would I consider voting for her? Frankly, based on from what I have seen personally, no. I'm an independent. I've got no dog in the, in the hunts of either the Democrats or the Republicans. But I think the woman had a brilliant address at the Republican Convention last year. I think that since then, she's, she's left a lot to be - I'll put it this way - desired as a person who is seeking votes. But that may be what this is about, campaigning for those votes like mine, that certainly are not persuaded at this point.

LAUER: You haven't been specific about your future plans. Safe to say, though, you're not gonna shy away from the public forum and, and continue to express your views on issues?

DOBBS: Absolutely safe, Matt. I'm going to, no matter whether, you know, I'm blessed with a lot of opportunities. No matter what it will be in the public arena, I guarantee you.

LAUER: We'll hear from Lou Dobbs. Lou, thanks for spending time with us this morning.

DOBBS: Great to be with you, Matt.

LAUER: Appreciate it.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research Center.