The liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America sought to ratchet up the pressure on CNN on Monday with an ad slamming the network for allowing host Lou Dobbs to continue raising questions about President Obama's birth certificate.
In the ad, set to begin running on cable today in three cities, the group spotlights Dobbs' recent focus on the so-called "birther" controversy, fueled by right-wing critics of Obama who question whether he is really a citizen.
Dobbs has said that he believes Obama is a citizen but has called for the president to produce a long-form birth certificate for the sake of "transparency."
His comments have drawn protests from liberal groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"Let CNN know there's nothing 'legitimate' about racially charged paranoia," the Media Matters ad says.
But the group's efforts to skewer Dobbs by running the ad during his show failed when CNN objected to the spot and most major cable providers declined to carry it.
"CNN retains the right to object to any ad run by the cable operator on our network whose purpose is to attack CNN or our employees," the network said in a statement.
The ad will still air on Fox News and MSNBC in New York, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., during the 4 p.m. Pacific time hour, when CNN runs "Lou Dobbs Tonight."
On his radio show Friday, Dobbs called Media Matters "a rabid, left-wing operation" and said the idea that they would run an ad against him was "just really extraordinary."
"It isn't an issue of legitimacy; it isn't an issue of citizenship . . . because I believe he's a citizen of the United States," he said. "It's an issue of just being open, transparent -- deliver the goods and be done with it and move on. . . . If it's not openness and transparency, then it's pretty much arrogance on the part of this president, that he's above the very same principles that were followed by, among others, John McCain throughout his campaign."
Late last month, CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein told Dobbs' producers in an internal e-mail that he believes the supposed controversy about Obama's birth certificate is a "dead" story.
But in an interview later, he defended Dobbs' coverage and said he had not issued a directive for him to drop the topic.
Dobbs has raised most of the questions about Obama's birth certificate on his nationally syndicated radio program. His most recent reference to the issue on CNN was July 28, when he reported that the director of the Hawaii Department of Health said she had seen Obama's original birth certificate on file.
"That official repeated her opinion that the president was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Aug. 4, 1961," Dobbs said.