New book sheds light on how Lou Dobbs pushed out Trump's DHS secretary

A Very Stable Genius reveals new details on Dobbs' feud with former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen


Citation Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

No one has cheered the nativist policies of the Trump administration more than Fox Business host Lou Dobbs. And according to a new book, he effectively pushed out former DHS secretary for failing to follow his directions.

The Trump administration’s second secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, resigned from her post on April 7, 2019. Nielsen served as the face of the Trump administration’s cruelest policy initiative -- the separation of migrant families crossing the southern border. Her tenure was additionally marked by a feud with Trump’s trusted informal adviser, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs.

For weeks in the spring of 2019, Dobbs continually attacked Nielsen for her alleged failure to impose Trump administration’s immigration policy. In a new book on roughly the first two-and-a-half years of the Trump administration, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America, Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig shed more light on Dobbs’ role in Nielsen’s downfall.

Rucker and Leonnig’s reporting exposes new stories that were not previously reported. One particular episode shows the influence Dobbs had on Trump’s views of Nielsen and immigration policy.

According to the authors, Trump “regularly called Nielsen after watching" Dobbs’ show to complain about her performance:

To Trump, the Dobbs monologues were gospel and created in the White House a nearly-daily drumbeat. The president would routinely call Nielsen to say a version of “Did you see Lou Dobbs? You’re totally fucking embarrassing me. This is my issue!” One of his go-to complaints was, “They’re killing me,” a reference to Fox coverage of immigration policy.

The authors write that Nielsen often complained that what Dobbs was telling the president to do was illegal. (In addition to his illegal proposals, Dobbs’s commentary on immigration is often racist and conspiratorial.) Yet Nielsen recognized Dobbs had a powerful influence on Trump:

Nielsen recognized the power Dobbs had over Trump, and saw that his commentary was infecting her relationship with the president. The White House communications shop had tried to book Nielsen on Dobbs’s show, but he had declined, saying Nielsen wasn’t “my cup of tea.” As the volume of border crossings spiked, Dobbs had a show focusing on the administration’s failure to enact three ideas to secure the border. Nielsen shook her head as she watched. One proposal was legally shaky, the second had already been discarded by the administration because it was impossible to implement, and the third was something the administration was already doing.

Nielsen called Dobbs “to correct him” and was reportedly “gracious.” She offered to “help” the Fox Business host with his “reporting,” offering him “any facts or statistics or one of our experts.” After the conversation ended, Trump called her “within hours” and asked, “Did you call Lou Dobbs?” When she said yes, Trump replied, “That’s great. … Lou says you’re very smart!”

Nielsen resigned in April 2019.

Nielsen is not the first high-level Trump administration official to be pushed out by a Fox host. National security adviser John Bolton essentially lost a power struggle with Tucker Carlson. Jeanine Pirro pushed for Jeff Sessions to be removed as attorney general until it happened. Sean Hannity did the same for previous national security adviser H.R. McMaster.