LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - CNN reporter John King will replace controversial departing host Lou Dobbs in a new weeknight political program on the 24-hour cable news network, CNN said on Thursday.
The appointment of King, currently the chief national political correspondent and host of Sunday political show "State of the Union," follows the abrupt resignation one day earlier of Dobbs before the end of his contract in 2011.
Dobbs had been criticized by Latino groups for using his show to promote his anti-immigration views. He was also seen as lending credence to the so-called "birther" movement, whose adherents believe that President Barack Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate was faked to hide a Kenyan birthplace, making the first black U.S. president ineligible for office.
King's new show will start early in 2010, Jonathan Klein, president of CNN/US said in a statement. CNN, a unit of Time Warner Inc, said Dobb's 7 p.m. slot would be renamed "CNN Tonight" in the interim and would be hosted by a rotating group of anchors.
Klein said King's new program would "reflect what CNN is all about: straight facts from our anchors and the widest range of opinions from across the political spectrum."
King, who joined CNN in 1997, said he was thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss the big issues of the day.
"There is a lot of noise and conflict in our political discourse, which is fun to cover, but I'm convinced from my travels that people also thirst for more details as well as insight and context," King said.
Dobbs, who announced his departure on his Wednesday show, did not say where he plans to go but said he wanted "to contribute positively to the understanding of the great issues of our day...in the most honest and direct language possible."
He is expected to focus initially on his syndicated radio show, "The Lou Dobbs Show."
CNN is currently trailing its cable news rivals Fox News, owned by News Corp, and MSNBC, a unit of General Electric Co. in prime-time viewership.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Cynthia Osterman)