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STUDY: Conservative guests again outnumber progressives on Lou Dobbs Tonight

A Media Matters analysis of the guest appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight in the first four months of 2009 found that 52 percent more Republicans and conservatives appeared than Democrats and progressives.

  • A Media Matters for America analysis of guest appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight for the first four months of 2009 has found that significantly more Republicans and conservatives than Democrats and progressives have appeared on the CNN show -- a result consistent with a 2006 Media Matters study on Dobbs' guest lineups. Despite this conservative tilt in the Lou Dobbs Tonight guest list and Dobbs' frequent falsehoods and distortions, CNN domestic network president Jon Klein reportedly contends that Dobbs -- while the network's most opinionated anchor “by a mile” -- is “doing more of a straight newscast than he's ever done before.”

    The most recent Media Matters analysis found that of the 326 guest appearances on the show from January 1 to April 30 of this year, 143 -- or approximately 44 percent -- were Republicans or conservatives. By contrast, 94 -- or approximately 29 percent -- were Democrats or progressives. In other words, 52 percent more Republicans and conservatives appeared than Democrats and progressives. The study classified the remaining 89 appearances -- approximately 27 percent -- as neutral. The data, rounded to the nearest percentage point:

    Considering only elected and administration guests, the study similarly found that Republicans held an edge over Democrats, despite the fact that Democrats controlled Congress and, for most of the time period examined, the White House. Between January and April, Dobbs' program featured 29 Republicans (57 percent of elected and administration guests) and 22 Democrats (43 percent). Limiting it to just members of Congress, the disparity in favor of Republicans was even more stark, 26-14, or 65 percent to 35 percent. In the previous Media Matters study, which looked at the first two months of 2006, when Republicans held power, elected and administration Republicans held a 23-9 guest edge over Democratic elected officials, or 70 percent to 27 percent. The 2006 study found that when considering only members of Congress, Lou Dobbs Tonight hosted 20 Republicans and six Democrats, a 77 percent to 23 percent Republican advantage.

    Republicans and conservatives also received a greater share of the solo interviews on Lou Dobbs Tonight, accounting for 42 percent of solo interviews, while Democrats and progressives accounted for 28 percent, and neutral guests accounted for 29 percent.

    Guest discussion panels also tilted right more often than left. Forty-three percent of all panels tilted right, nearly double the 22 percent of panels that tilted left. Thirty-five percent of all panels were balanced.

    Additionally, Lou Dobbs Tonight has been a particularly hospitable place for conservative talk radio hosts who otherwise do not have a national platform to express their views. Among the right-wing radio personalities who have appeared on Dobbs' show -- and whom Media Matters has documented trafficking in falsehoods and inflammatory rhetoric -- are Chris Baker, Bill Cunningham, Roger Hedgecock, Lars Larson, Steve Malzberg, and Chris Stigall.

    For a list of the guests that were coded, click here.


    Media Matters for America tracked the guest appearances on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight for all episodes between January 1, 2009, and April 30, 2009. (Note: The show was pre-empted by other programming on January 19, January 20, March 18, and April 29.)

    Each guest who appeared on Lou Dobbs Tonight was coded for one of the following designations: Democratic, Republican, progressive, conservative, or neutral. The party designations (Democratic and Republican) were reserved for current and former officeholders, political consultants associated with one party or the other, and administration officials. All other guests were coded as conservative, progressive, or neutral based on self-identification or organizational and institutional affiliations. The neutral category does not necessarily imply strict ideological neutrality but, rather, might better be understood as neutral/centrist/nonpartisan -- Media Matters used the term “neutral” for the sake of brevity. On the few occasions where a guest's ideological alignment could not be determined by their self-identification or affiliations, their statements and positions on various issues were used to arrive at a designation. Where a guest's identification was in question, Media Matters chose to err on the side of listing that guest to the left. If a guest's ideology could not be determined by any of the methods outlined above, the guest was coded as neutral.

    Panel discussion segments were coded for ideological balance. For example, if one Democratic senator and one Republican senator appeared together, the panel would be coded as balanced. If two conservative commentators appeared together with one progressive commentator, the panel would be coded as tilted right. Guests who appeared alone were coded as solo appearances.

    All transcripts for Lou Dobbs Tonight were accessed through the Nexis database.